He couldn’t believe how things had spiraled out of his control, Lotor holding back a sigh, the air caught in his throat. Cossack didn’t seem to notice, the commander a silent escort as they walked through the halls of the castle. Lotor’s thoughts were a million miles away, the prince frowning as he thought over what had just happened. He had told Allura she was pregnant, a half lie meant to prevent unneeded stress upon her. His little announcement to her had been met with disastrous results, the girl bursting into tears, half hysterical at the news.
It almost made him regret his decision to lie to her, Lotor wishing he could have told her the truth. But much was riding on this lie, he had no way of judging her ability as an actress, knowing Zarkon would be keen towards any odd behavior on her part. Better she believe she was with child rather than the awful truth that she had to get pregnant or die!
He just hadn’t expected her to start crying, Allura hurling angry accusations at him. His heart had sank when she revealed she believed he cared nothing for her, that he just saved her because of the child. He hated to think that all his actions, his desperate flight to rescue her would go unacknowledged, a non existent child overshadowing the real reason behind what he had done.
Lotor hadn’t known how to calm her down, how to make her believe his words. She looked so distressed, her eyes going dark with dejection and misery, Allura crying as though her heart had broken. So he did the only thing he could do. He told her he loved her, the confession being torn from his lips as though it inflicted great pain on him. She hadn’t noticed how hard it had been for him to say those words, the girl not ready to believe. Doubt had been in her eyes, and Lotor was left wondering if she had come to believe, or merely calmed down enough to stop hating him for this latest caused debacle.
She didn’t understand, couldn’t possible know what it cost him to make such an admittance. She was chipping away at his identity, that of the proud but cold prince, indifferent to love and heart felt emotions. Never, he had never, ever intended to tell her those words, and yet in the face of her tears out they came.
He wished he could get into her mind, dig down deep in an attempt to understand her better. He supposed he should take it as a positive sign her reaction, feeling it must mean she felt SOMETHING for him if she had had such a strong reaction to his news. Allura had reacted as though she was jealous of their supposed child, feeling she lost where it mattered most.
He wondered what her reaction would have been if he had told her the whole truth, instead of the half lie. Would she still have cried? Would she have understood the urgency of the situation, enough to accept making a baby with him? If given the choice, would Allura even WANT to make a baby with him? As it stood now, he was taking away her options, boxing her in and plotting behind her back. He’d get her pregnant with his child, one way or another, it was just a matter of time.
Everything was on a schedule, everything being limited to time’s pull. The baby, the war….Arus. Lotor shook his head, following Cossack into his office where two generals were seated. They stood up at his entrance, offering him stiff backed bows, Lotor acknowledging the gesture with a nod.
“Gentleman…” He began, walking over to his desk. He did not take his seat, ignoring the leather chair to touch the metal surface of his desk. “I’m glad you could meet with me so suddenly.” The door clicked close, Cossack taking up position in front of it, his arms crossed over his chest.
“It’s not a problem your highness.” One man, a General Dicorta said. “We are happy to be of any assistance.” His companion, the General Labreaza nodded in agreement.
Lotor offered them a small smile, hand reaching to touch one of the globes on his desk. “This is your new assignment.” He held it up, seeing how their eyes landed on the globe, polite interest on their faces. “It’s called Arus and it is just one of the newest planets to be acquired by the Doom Empire.”
“I don’t understand.” Frowned Labreaza. “If it is already part of the Doom Empire, then what do you need us for?”
“A mission of inquiries.” Lotor explained, setting down the globe. “My father, King Zarkon has slated Arus for termination, intending to release a new chemical weapon upon the populace. The results are expected to be disabling and deadly, having not just an undesired effect on the people, but on the planet’s crops as well.” The two generals exchanged looks, frowns mirrored on their faces as they listened to Lotor’s words.
“I think Arus deserves a chance to be saved.” He saw the look of surprise on their faces at his words, Lotor hurrying to continue. “The King has not given it a proper chance to prosper under Doom rule. It’s a chance I intend to give it with your help.”
“Of course.” Dicorta nodded. “How can we be of service?”
“I am sending you to Arus with a fleet of your own. A combination of scientists and soldiers, some of our brightest minds sent to analyze the planet. To find out it’s secrets, to ferret out it’s worth. Working together with them, you will ascertain if Arus can become more than just a food source for the Empire.”
“Such an undertaking will take time and money….” Began Labreaza. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes.” A nod from Lotor, the prince opening a drawer in his desk. He withdrew documents, their cover page labeled the Arus Urban Renewal Project. “This goes into more details about what I have planned. My hopes for the planet’s future, and it’s chance for developing it into a thriving economy that would bolster Doom rather than be a drain on our resources.”
“I will look this over as soon as possible.” Promised Dicorta.
Labreaza already had the document open, flipping through it’s pages, his eyes scanning the type. “I don’t understand why you just don’t allow Zarkon to waste this planet…” He said. “If it really has no value then it could better serve us as a testing ground for new weapons.”
“General Labreaza…” Lotor’s tone was cold, the prince giving the man a stern look. “I am sensing a lack of enthusiasm on your part for this project. If that is the case, please let me know and I will replace you with someone more eager and….competant.” Labreaza’s eyes flashed with annoyance, but the man held his tongue, his head shaking no. “Very well then. You leave tonight.”
“Tonight?” Even Dicorta was amazed. “So soon?”
“My father is only allowing us a week’s time to find some worth in saving Arus. It has to be tonight if you are to make it there, and have the proper time to explore the planet.” Explained Lotor. “If you find anything, anything at all, no matter how small or inconsequential it seems, alert me. It may just buy you even more time for your mission.”
“Yes, Prince Lotor.” They said simultaneously, Dicorta giving a slight nod of his head.
“Then if you have no further questions, you can go now.” Lotor said, and the men rose to stand. They dropped quick bows to him, then turned, Cossack shuffling out of the way so they could exit the room. He waited until the door was closed, and then Lotor sighed, wondering if Arus really was as hopeless as his father and Labreaza seemed to think it was.
“So….what’s the deal with the planet?” Lotor glanced up at Cossack’s voice, the commander spinning the globe with his finger. “I mean, why waste all this time and resources on saving it?”
“It’s Allura’s home world.” That was all the explanation needed, understanding showing in Cossack’s eyes.
“Ah so it’s a favor to her. Makes sense.” He nodded. “Probably score big with your bride to be if you can pull it off. On the other hand…”
“The other hand?” Lotor prodded when he trailed off.
“Well it’s a gamble. She’ll be grateful if you save it, and liable to give you the cold shoulder if you don’t.” Cossak said.
“Which is why the mission must succeed!” Lotor said, slamming close his desk drawer.
“Not arguing with that.” Cossack said. “But you know….” The communicator on his belt went off, Cossack grimacing as he reached for it. “Cossack here.” A garbled voice came out, words spilling out fast in the speaker’s excitement. “Hold on Private, I can barely make you out.” Cossack admonished, his fingers fiddling with the knobs on the communicator. “Repeat that last bit, and slower please!”
“Commander Donovan has been found!” Lotor drew in a sharp breath at the news, his eyes meeting Cossack’s surprised ones. “He’s currently being detained in the dungeons as per his highness’ orders!”
Lotor did a slow smile, a self satisfied smirk crossing his face. He nodded at Cossack, the commander speaking a reply into the communicator. “Keep him there, Prince Lotor and I will be down there as soon as possible.”
“Acknowledged! Private Demarko out.” The communicator hissed then fell silent, Lotor coming round the desk to approach Cossack’s side. He couldn’t stop smiling, the look on his face making Cossack shiver.
‘Well, Commander, let us go pay a visit to your former colleague.” He didn’t wait for Cossack’s answer, Lotor already heading to the door of his office. He pulled it open, and stepped out into the hall, hearing Cossack moving to follow him.
“He’s got a lot to pay for.” Lotor said, moving at a brisk pace through the halls. “For his spying, for what he has done to me, to Allura…..!”
“Don’t forget about young Malcrom….” Cossack added. “That boy had a good head on his shoulder. He showed a lot of promise.”
“Yes, the lives of not just Malcrom but all the soldiers who died on the mission to take back Allura lie heavy on this man’s soul.” Lotor said, thinking of those trusted few who had died aboard Merla’s ship.
“Are you gonna kill him?” Cossack asked bluntly, causing Lotor to turn and look at him. “Right, stupid question.”
“It’s not a matter of if I kill him, or when…” Lotor said, leading Cossack around a corner. “But how.”
“I’m sure you’ll be most inventive your highness.” Cossack complimented.
“I don’t know about that!” Lotor chuckled. “Sometimes the tried and true old methods are best.”
“I just hope he suffers.” Cossack said as they started down the stone steps that led into the dungeon.
“Oh he will.” Promised Lotor, slowing his steps so as to appear unhurried as he entered the dungeon. Even from this distance, about halfway down the stairs he could hear the moans, pained sounds from the prisoners, and screams. Agonized wails, screams for help, screams for mercy, even a hysterical giggle from some poor fool whose mind had broken.
There was a distinct smell lingering in the air, foul….a mixture of the damp and dusty surroundings with a heavier scent surrounding it. Human filth, the unwashed masses leaving in their own waste. It produced a smell that had Lotor’s nose wrinkling, the prince breathing through his mouth as best he could. Cossack made a disgusted sound, pulling out a handkerchief and pressing it over his mouth and nose.
“Always hate coming down here.” He complained, voice muffled. “Always stinks, and not just of filth but of misery and self loathing.”
Lotor said nothing, privately agreeing. The dungeon affected even his mood, leaving his skin to crawl, Lotor always needing a long bath after spending even a few minutes down in the cramped confines of the dungeon. The lighting was dim here, as though the dungeon was low to give up it’s secrets, quick to hide the goings on that occurred here between cellmates and their keepers.
They passed through the staircase’s archway, stepping on the dirty stone floor of the dungeon. Just a few feet forward was a gate, barring entry to and from the main part of the dungeon. A guard was sitting at a small desk, he stood up at the sight of Lotor and the commander, offering a bow and a salute to the two men. Lotor nodded at him, and Cossack ambled over to the desk, taking time to sign the record book that would contain the details of all who visited the dungeons.
Once the ink had dried, the guard moved to unlock the gate, it’s metal hinges creaking ominously. Lotor and Cossack stepped forward, passing into the dungeon, seeing the first of the cells. Men lay unconscious, dozing on the floor, their clothes torn and dirty. Others were awake, staring out at Prince Lotor, misery in their eyes. The gate slammed closed, locking with a final click, Lotor moving onwards.
A reaction started to his presence, a murmur of voices as word spread quickly through the cells. Those who could stand, did so, walking and in some cases limping to the bars, reaching out with their hands, calling out to the prince. They pleaded for mercy, for forgiveness of their crimes, both real and imagined. Lotor ignored them all, keeping his eyes fixed straight ahead of him.
Cossack was looking around, following at a slower space. He paused at one cell, peering into it’s darkened depths. “Hey, is this one empty….?” Lotor stopped and turned, looking inside. At first glance it really did seem like there was an empty cell amidst the overcrowded ones, but then he saw it. Slight movement in the corner, a figure huddled in on itself, rocking back in place.
“Hey it’s a girl!” Cossack said, surprised. Lotor nodded, getting a closer look at the scantily clad female, her blond hair covering her face.
“Oh yes…” Lotor said, remembering. “I did banish one of my harem to the dungeons.” He recognized her now as Allura’s cousin, thinking back on her tantrum the night Allura had collapsed from Zarkon’s poison. “I wonder if she’s learned her lesson….” He gave a shrug of his shoulders, moving past Romelle’s cell, the slave never even looking up to acknowledge his presence.
Cossack stood standing there, looking at her a moment longer. “Coming Commander?” Lotor called back, jarring him from whatever thoughts he had been entertaining.
“Oh yes!” Cossack answered, and hurried after Lotor. They continued past the cells, until the barred cubes faded, leaving a wide open expanse of space, various torture devices stadning against the walls. People were there, hung up by chains, palace torturers working them over to get them to make confessions. They whipped and beat them, until they bled or lose consciousness. And then cold water was thrown on them to rouse them, the beatings recommencing at the shocked gasps they emitted.
Trails of blood and other liquids gravitated towards drains in the floor, leaving a clear pathway in the center of the dungeon. Lotor walked it now, finding the air was a bit more tolerable here, the prince turning his head left and right as he studied the faces of the tortured. None were who he sought, so he moved on, until he came to the end of the dungeon.
It was there he found his quarry, Commander Donovan hanging with his arms spread up and out to the sides. His legs were also spread, chained down to keep him from kicking out. Aside from the chains, he was untouched, no bruises marred his face, and his expression was calm, almost put out by this treatment. He looked up at Lotor’s approach, gold eyes blazing with defiance.
“When you father, the King hears what you have done…” Began Donovan, Lotor rearing back with his arm to backhand him across the face. That temporarily silenced the man, his cheek reddened, a bruise sure to appear if he lived long enough.
“My father won’t care. That is if he even knows about this.” Lotor said, and glanced at the leering soldiers who stood off to the side. “Report.”
“He was found trying to sneak back into the castle.” Came the answer. “He was apprehended before he could be seen.”
“He appears to have not tried to contact anyone about his return.” Continued another.
“Did you think you could hide from me if you maintained radio silence?” Lotor asked, grasping Donovan by the chin. His eyes narrowed, the man pursing his lips together. Lotor leaned to the side, just evading the gob of spit spat in his direction. “You were a fool to come back to the castle, back to Doom after what you have done.”
“I was working under your father’s orders.” Donovan answered. “I cannot disobey a direct command from the King!”
“I protect the men under my services. Need I remind you of this?” Lotor asked. “I’ve kept you and them from doing the King’s bidding in the past. I would have done the same in this situation. But….you didn’t want my help. You didn’t need my help.” Lotor’s lips curled, flashing his teeth at the man. “You’ve aligned yourself with my father. What’s more…you’ve been working with him behind my back, betraying me, betraying my trust in you.”
Donovan had no response, just hanging there staring. Lotor made a tsking sound, an instant before he whipped his hand across Donovan’s face. “For that alone, I should kill you. But to know that you have been spying on me?! Telling my father things, damaging things?! Interfering in my personal life!” He grasped Donovan by his hair, pulling on it so that the line of his throat was revealed. Lotor held out his hand, and someone pushed the handle of a curved dagger into it, it’s teeth wicked and sharp looking.
“You dared touch what is mine.” Continued Lotor holding the knife’s edge against his throat. “You dared take her from me! You struck and manhandled her, delivered Allura into a fate that almost killed her!” Donovan’s Adam’s apple bobbed, the man gearing himself up to speak. “I want you to think very carefully on what you are about to say commander…” He pressed the knife down, it’s teeth cutting into his skin to cause a thin trickle of blood that leaked down into his shirt.
“King Zarkon is right.” Donovan said. “You have lost your mind.”
“The girl is a slave, her worth is her body alone and yet you run after her like a leashed dog!” Lotor’s eyes flashed at Donovan’s words, his hand tensing. “Your father is concerned for you. A concern I echoed when I went to him with my observations. You needed to be free of the girl, free of the maddening effect she holds on you. You’ve plunged us all into a war, a war that could have been avoided had you stayed in the castle and forgotten about her!”
“Your concern is duly noted.” Lotor hissed, and slashed downwards with the knife, tearing into the commander’s chest. It ripped open both skin and uniform, the cut deeper and bleeding more heavily than the tiny welt on his neck.
His arm moved, making another cut, then another, knife slashing as he left the man’s shirt in shreds, bloodied strips clinging to what skin was unmarked by the knife. Donovan panting, a scream having escaped him during the cutting, and now he let out another. “Prince Lotor please! I can still be of use to you!”
“That you can.” Lotor said, and stepped back. “You can start by telling me the names of all the men in my father’s employ.”
His eyes widened, Donovan shaking his head no. “I can’t!”
“Can’t or won’t?” Nothing in reply, Donovan looking away. “Your silence speaks volumes Commander.” Lotor snapped his fingers, Cossack and the other soldiers approaching. “You know what to do.”
“Indeed.” Cossack grinned, dropping his handkerchief on the floor. He had brass knuckles on his right hand, they were rusted a reddish brown color, stains of previous assaults. There was even tiny spikes on the brass, meant to tear and rip the skin of the one being hit. Lotor stepped away from Donovan, to take a seat a few feet away, his eyes calm and cold, no mercy to their golden depths.
Cossack and the three guards began beating Donovan, taking turns when one got tired so that the beating never ceased, not even for an instant. Donovan tried to scream, but his breath was too busy being expelled forcefully from his lungs. He did weak grunts and pants, blood decorating the floor, the wall, and Cossack’s fists. Lotor sat back, watching it all, as patient as a cat stalking it’s prey.
The beating went on for the better part of the hour, Donovan taking it all, his face wet with tears. Lotor shifted in his seat, staring consideringly at the man, then nodded to himself. “Enough.”
He only had to speak once, the man beating Donovan immediately stopped, the commander sagging in place, held up only by his chains. “Now….Commander…if you please. The names.” Lotor said, seeing Donovan struggle to lift his head. The briefest flicker of defiance in the man’s eyes was enough to have Lotor sighing in disappointment.
“Bring forth the mixture.” He said it ominously, Donovan’s eyes widening.
“NO! Not that!” He found the strength to rattle his chains, the man struggling in place as he moaned.
“Ah but Commander, you’re bleeding. Your wounds need washing out.” Lotor smirked, a soldier approaching with a bucket. He glanced at the clear liquid, it resembled water but held a strong smell to it. Lotor lifted the paintbrush that was soaking inside the bucket, his nose wrinkling at the strong hint of salt and vinegar on it.
“Don’t.” Begged Donovan.
“Hmm? Then will you tell me the names?” Lotor asked, seeing Donovan shake his head no. “Your choice.” He didn’t even hesitate, brining the soaked bristles of the paintbrushes to the deepest and nastiest of Donovan’s wounds, drenching it with the potent mixture. A loud hiss from Donovan, every muscles on his body going tense as he fought not to scream. It was a fight he lost, the yell issuing out and scaring the others in the dungeon.
Lotor dipped the paintbrush in the bucket, then attacked another cut, hearing Donovan scream. “For God’s sake Lotor, please!”
“The names Donovan! I want those names.” Lotor replied, paintbrush smoothing over a jagged looking cut on his hip.
“Elipse!” A name was gasped out, Lotor purring in approval.
“Very good.” Another wash of the brush across a different cut. “Who else?”
“Harmond! Jatle!” One by one names were given, until Donovan had revealed over a dozen of King Zarkon’s spies. Some of them Lotor knew personally, having employed them in his private guard.
“Thank you for your cooperation Commander.” Lotor said, dropping the paintbrush into the bucket. The blood pinkend the water, Lotor gesturing for it to be taken away. Donovan seemed to sag in relief, hardly aware of when Lotor narrowed his eyes at him. “One last thing. Your accomplice Ensan. Where is he hiding?”
“Not hiding.” Donovan gasped. “I killed him so there would be one last person to share the wealth from the money King Zarkon paid.”
“Ah, than that’s one last rat to trap.” Lotor turned away, moving to leave the dungeon.
“Your highness wait!” Donovan’s voice, panicked. “Cut me down. I need a doctor.”
“Yes.” Lotor’s tone was mild, the prince glancing back at him with all the sympathy of a shark. “You do.” Cossack and the soldiers began snickering, Donovan’s voice rising in volume.
“You’re just going to leave me here?!”
“Oh don’t worry. You’ll probably bleed to death long before infection sets in.” Lotor assured him. “Keep washing his wounds every ten minutes. I want his screams to echo through out this dungeon!”
“Yes Prince Lotor.” Acknowledge the guards.
“Come along Cossack. We have work to do.” Without a glance back at Donovan, Lotor was leaving, listening to the man scream and curse him, damning both him and King Zarkon. “It’s such a shame, isn’t it Cossack?”
“Sir? I’m not sure I follow.”
“My father’s spies. He’ll have to get new ones.” Lotor smirked, thinking of how he planned to get rid of the men who pretended to be in his employ.
“Ah….this is your attempt at humor.” Cossack said, and forced out a laugh. Lotor sighed, and rolled his eyes, stalking forward. He was eager to get out of the dungeon and back to Allura’s side, but first he was in sore need of a bath.