Slave 060

The black canvas of space was dotted with fire, an explosion of color that marked each and every ship that had been so recently lost. The orange and gold of flames blazed, the ships working to avoid those spots, flying past in a burst of speed. Once clear of the burning wreckage, they swooped down on enemy crafts, firing their lasers to add to the devastation.

Lotor stood with his hands on his hips, eyes intent on the screen, giving the occasional nod of approval. The battle was finally starting to wrap up, only a few on the Queen’s side still attempted their weak resistance. It was foolish of them, a quick and sure fire way for them to die, their ships going up in a blaze of brief glory. It was only the small fighter craft who did this, their bigger brethren having been disabled and left to float helplessly in space.

A few of the giant ships had been destroyed completely, Doom’s ships ruthless and relentless as they picked apart the craft. The ship that had born Merla’s so called ultimate weapon was among them, Lotor wanting to risk no chance of them making a come back. Even with most of the star cutters working to destroy it, the weapon had been allowed to fire three more times, and each time the results were devastating for Doom.

He sighed, noting their armada wasn’t quite as grand as it had been when it first set out for Amazonia. Reinforcements would have to be sent out, to bolster it’s numbers if they hoped to mount a successful campaign against the Queen on her home territory. Planet Mindigula would be called into service, Doom landing it’s forces on it’s surface to get repairs done to their ships. The Queen’s forces would be forced planet side, locked away in Mindigula’s jails, a few of the survivors taken aside to be interrogated.

He wondered what secrets would be learned through the course of torture, Lotor knowing he wanted to sit in on the interrogation process. He’d have to do it from Doom, Zarkon still refusing to lift the ban that would allow Lotor to take part in the battle up close. He had mixed feelings about that, a part of him, his Drule blood no doubt, eager for battle. Yet another part of him relished this time on Doom, wanting to spend every available moment with Allura.

He fought not to glance at her now, Lotor staying staring at the screen. She had fallen quiet for much of the battle, sitting in a weary kind of slump on the couch. He couldn’t fault her for her silence, Lotor himself finding not much to talk about as the battle raged on. It left the conversation up to Cossack, the commander too blind to notice the tension that was developing in the room.

Lotor still cursed himself for his blunder, wondering how he could have been so stupid as to order murder to be committed in Allura’s name. He could only blame it on being caught up in the moment, the battle exciting him in a way that was very much a sexual manner. That tinged with the added need to wipe the smug smirk off the Queen’s spokesperson had led him to misspeak, leading to another relationship disaster.

For much of the battle he had tried not to think about Allura, needing to lend his focus to the fight so as to properly take command of the situation. With just a few stragglers on Merla’s side being picked off by Doom’s star cutters, he could now afford to devote his attention to the situation he had caused. It made him want to sigh, Lotor holding back that loud breath, forcing himself to pay attention to what General Duceit was saying.

“Seems they only had one of the so called ultimate weapon.” The General gave a shake of his head. “I dare say we would have had an even harder time of it if they had brought more with them.”

They were still referring to it as the ultimate weapon, having no idea as to the true name, or what that weapon had been. “We got lucky.” Lotor said, knowing it was true. “And they were overconfident because of it.”

“Overconfident?” echoed Cossack, sounding surprised. “What do you mean?”

“They didn’t bring nearly enough ships with them.” Lotor explained. “Can you imagine what would have happened if they had been on equal footing with Doom when they unleashed that weapon? We might have been overwhelmed, and lost this first battle.”

“Damn, you’re right.” Agreed Cossack, the man frowning. “Let’s hope they don’t have more of that weapon waiting for us at Amazonia.”

“Which is why we are going to proceed cautiously.” Lotor told him. “General Duceit, the armada is to dock topside at Planet Mindigula to await more of our forces.” A smile then, a bit of blood thirstiness to that expression of his. “Your time won’t be wasted, I expect you to get the complete details of Merla’s plans from the captured men in your care.”

The General looked pleased at the thought of the coming torture, mirroring Lotor’s expression. “Yes, sire. I shall have my men begin the questioning as soon as the ships are landed.”

“Excellent.” Lotor glanced at the side of the screen that showed the handful of ships that were still fighting Doom’s star cutters. Cossack was looking too, the man speaking with a chuckle.

“They have nowhere to go. Even if they tried to make a break for it, those fighters aren’t equipped for long distance space travel. Heh…they might as well give up and accept their fate.”

“Why don’t they?” Both men turned, surprised to hear Allura speaking up. She looked uncertain, fingers playing with her skirt as she waited for an answer. “Give up I mean?”

“It’s complicated.” Lotor hesitated, and Allura fixed her blue eyes on him.

“Explain it to me.” She urged, and this time he gave in to the sigh.

“I suppose it’s easiest to understand if I put it like this. Right now, they don’t know what awaits them as a prisoner of war. They don’t know what sort of conditions they will live in, how they will be treated, and if they will ever be set free. It’s an uncertain future that awaits them, while out on the battlefield, they know what to expect.”

“They would choose to die over being taken prisoner?” She asked horrified, and Lotor nodded.

“At least that would be something they could control. It would be on their terms.”

“Oh.” She sounded so sad, Lotor found himself taking a step towards her before he stopped himself. “War is terrible.” Allura added, tone somber.

“Only if you’re losing.” Came Cossack’s flippant answer. Lotor shot him an angry look, cowing the commander into silence.

“Yes, yes it is.” Lotor said, more to appease Allura than any heart felt agreement with her. “Allura, have you seen much war?”

“No…not really.” She glanced down at her hands, fingers still so busy with her dress. “When Doom’s forces came to Arus, we were unprepared. It wasn’t a war, so much as a slaughter, the invading forces landing before we had time to properly fight back.” It was much the same with Pollux, Lotor’s attack a surprise they hadn’t been ready for, Allura sleeping through much of the fighting that had went on.

“Arus was a peaceful place.” Allura continued, a sad look on her face. “There wasn’t much need for fighting, everyone got along.”

“I see.” Lotor made a mental note to one day soon ask her about her planet. It would help him to learn more about her, and perhaps help him to better understand the differences between them.

Allura had fallen silent once more, Lotor turning back to the view screen. “Well, General…if all that’s left to do is begin the descent to Mindigula, I’ll leave you be. I entrust the armada into your capable hands once more.”

“Yes, sire.” Duceit gave a bow, then asked a question as he straightened. “When can we expect the reinforcements from Doom to arrive?”

“In about a week’s time.” Lotor replied, thinking of the reserve fleets he had on standby for just this sort of scenario. “The fleets wait only on my command.”

“Excellent news.” Duceit gave a stiff smile, Lotor nodding at Cossack to end the transmission. The screen flickered, turning to static an instant before it went blank, the last image being seen was that of a ship being blown up.

“Well…” Cossack was still standing by the entertainment center, fingers touching the equipment. “That was some battle! Hadn’t seen one like it in years!”

“Yes.” Agreed Lotor, once again looking at Allura.

“What do you think the Queen is up to, sending so few of her fleets out to face us?” Cossack clearly wanted to stick around and over analyze the recent battle, something Lotor was in no mood for.

“She’s clearly plotting something…” Lotor said, unwilling to completely write Merla off as stupid.

“Yeah, but what?” Cossack asked, and Lotor shrugged.

“We’ll find out eventually.” Before Cossack could get out another question, Lotor was speaking, hurriedly cutting him off. “Cossack it’s late.”

“Yeah, it is. That battle sure took a long time to play out.” Cossack said, not getting the hint. Lotor fought the urge to roll his eyes in annoyance, gesturing the commander to follow him to the door. The Drule continued to speak as he walked, shaking his head ruefully. “I mean I thought we would blow Merla’s armada out of the sky without any problems. Didn’t expect it to take as long as it did….”

“One can never truly predict the outcome of any battle.” Lotor said, and began pushing Cossack out the door. The commander let out a startled protest, one which had Lotor speaking over him. “Good night commander.”

He didn’t even wait for the man to perform the customary bow, closing the door in his face. For one-second Lotor just stood there, staring at the metal, mentally preparing himself for the discussion that was about to occur.

“That was rude of you.” Allura said quietly, when Lotor turned to face her. “Tossing out Cossack like that.”

“Cossack doesn’t always know when to take the hint.” Lotor retorted, striding towards her. He stopped a few inches before her, uncertain if he should sit down besides her. “Allura, are you okay?” She shrugged, and he frowned. “That’s not really an answer.”

“I’m as fine as can be, considering.” She replied, sighing.

He didn’t ask what that consideration entailed, having a good guess already. “I’m sorry.” Lotor said simply, wishing those words could make everything all right, and knowing they couldn’t.

“It’s fine.” Allura moved from the couch, standing before him though she avoided looking at him.

“Is it really?” Lotor asked, seeing her peer up at him through lowered lashes. “Or are you just saying that?”

She avoided the question, moving to walk past him. He reached out with his good hand, snagging hold of her arm. “Lotor…” She didn’t look at him, merely standing in place as he held onto her. “I’m tired.”

“Are you really?” Lotor wanted to know, not relaxing his grip on her arm. “Or are you just trying to run away from me?” That got her to look at him, an angry flash of sapphire being aimed at him.

“What do you want me to say?” She demanded, still making no move to escape his grasp.

“Nothing…” Lotor sighed, and pushed her back to the couch, hand on her shoulder now, urging her to sit once more. “I just need you to listen to me. Is that to much to ask?” Her lips formed a frown, Allura staring consideringly at him. At last she nodded her consent, Lotor feeling a small sense of relief flood through him.

“I was wrong.” He began, lifting his hand from her shoulder. “In more ways than one. I should have never even let you watch the battle.”

“It’s fine.” Came Allura’s response, the girl sitting tense on the couch.

“No, it isn’t.” Lotor protested, shaking his head. “You should have never had to witness that. It must have been horrible for you, to see all that death and destruction.”

“It’s the least I could do.” Allura’s words had him confused, Lotor frowning at her. She hastened to explain. “I have a responsbility to see the battle to it’s end. After all…It is my fault that this war is happening, that those men and women died.” Her voice grew softer as she spoke, Allura closing her eyes for one brief second. “It’s all my fault.”

“No, it isn’t!” Lotor snapped harshly, seeing Allura open her eyes, the blue startled. “At least…not completely. There’s many factors at hand in this war, you are just one of them. If anything it’s my father’s fault for giving you away to Morwin in the first place.”

“You would have never done what you had done if it wasn’t for me.” Allura insisted. “You would have never killed Morwin if he hadn’t hurt me….The Queen, she wouldn’t be out for your blood if you had stayed on Doom and forgotten all about me.”

“As if I could ever do that!” muttered Lotor, running a hand through his hair. In his agitation, he spilled his hair every which way, the strands sticking out wild and ruffled. “Allura, don’t torture yourself like this. Don’t sit and blame yourself for what is happening. I warned Merla we would fight if she sought retribution for Morwin’s death. It’s on her head, that this war is happening. If she had just left well enough alone…”

“No, it’s because of me!” She gave an anxious twist of her fingers, looking as though she would jump up at any moment.

“Damn it Allura…” Began Lotor, but she was suddenly shouting, close to tears with every word spoken.

“It’s me, and how much longer must we go through this before you realize it to, and hand me over to her!” Lotor stared at Allura, seeing her shoulders shake as she brought her hands up to her face. “It’s me.” She repeated, not quite sobbing.

“Allura…” Lotor dropped to his knees, reaching for her hands. He gave a gentle tug on her wrists, feeling her resist him. “Have you been living scared all this time that I will change my mind?” He took her loud sniffle as a yes, his expression softening. “Oh my dear Allura….don’t be. I will never hand you over to her.”

“You should though.” Her words were muffled by her hands, Allura all but whispering. “It would be the easy end to the war. And sooner or later you’ll realize it.”

“This war has no easy solution.” Lotor told her, finally managing to wrest her hands away from her face. “Don’t you realize that yet? Merla won’t be satisfied with the life of just one girl. Not when she’s gone after my father.” She just stared at him, not comprehending. “The Queen has made attempts on all of the Zarkonian family line, as though she seeks to render Doom into the chaos of having no ruler. She’s after more than just retribution at this point.”

“What does that mean?” Allura asked, Lotor still holding her hands prisoner in his grip.

“Oh my dear one, she has her eye on Doom itself now.” Lotor saw her eyes widen in shock. “If Merla gets her way, all the people of Doom will either die or be enslaved. To give up now would just guarantee the Doom Empire fall into the Queen’s hands. Do you want that?”

“No…but..” Allura licked her lips, a nervous gesture as she thought over her words. “How can you be sure she wants Doom?”

“That ultimate weapon is proof enough.” Lotor said, grimacing as he recalled the power he had seen it display. “You see Allura, the planets in the Doom Empire are supposed to hand over all findings to Doom. Any technological advances, especially if it’s nature is some kind of weapon or asset to warfare. Merla purposely kept it a secret from us. That alone is treasonous for us to do battle with Amazonia. What’s more she’s used it against us. My father will be furious…” A half smile played on his lips as he imagined Zarkon’s reaction. “I dare say even more so than he was over her assassination attempt.”

He reached up to touch her face, pleased when Allura leaned into his finger’s movements. “So you see Allura, it’s no longer just about you or me. All of Doom, all of it’s people, both citizens and slaves are in danger. We cannot give up. We mustn’t. To do that would just invite disaster as Merla set out to clean out the old regime of it’s power. People would die, people never meant to fight in the war.”

She was trembling at his words, eyes looking sad. “Do you understand now, Allura?” Lotor asked, and after a moment’s hesitation she nodded. “Good. Then no more talk of handing yourself over to the Queen. It’s pointless, and I do not want you to torture yourself with anymore thoughts on how this war is your fault. It’s not, if anything, it’s the fault of many.”

“I’ll try.” She whispered, and he allowed a smile to cross his lips.

“That’s all I can ask.” Lotor noted the way her eyelids kept drooping, as though Allura was fighting off sleep. He wasn’t sure what time it was, having lost track of the hour due to the excitement of the battle. But he had a hunch it was past the hour the girl normally went to bed, Lotor knowing humans needed more sleep than Drules. “It’s late…” He rose to his feet, pausing to pull Allura up off the couch. She made a protesting noise, a sound he shushed.

“You need your sleep. Now more than ever.”

“What about our talk?” She wanted to know, as he began moving them towards the door that led into the bedroom.

“It can wait.” Lotor said, guiding her through the archway. “I think a talk about Drules and humans, and our differing ideas of romance is best conducted when both our minds are fresh.”

“All right.” She paused in the doorway, looking up at him. “Good night Lotor.”

“Good night Allura.” Lotor said, fighting the impulse to lean down and steal a kiss from her. He knew it would be a mistake, in more ways than one, the girl too tired and upset, and Lotor far too excited from the successful battle to risk anything more than a chaste holding of her hand.

Allura turned away from the door, Lotor closing it behind her. He let out the sigh he had been holding, leaning against the metal that separated him from Allura. He envied her her chance for sleep, the prince knowing he had much to do this night before he could allow himself a moment’s rest.

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