Looking over the reports from planet Arus, Lotor couldn’t help but sigh in frustration. It had nothing to do with the lion’s performances, the three that they had found continued to exceed all expectations, proving to be a marvel of magic and machine that left all other known devices in their dust. They had few limitations, the major one being they needed to rest once a week in their lairs to reenergize themselves.
No, that wasn’t the problem. What frustrated Lotor was the fact that it was taking longer and longer to discover the whereabouts of the two remaining lions. It seemed with each lion found, the period of time needed to find the next increased, drastically so. It had been over a week since red lion’s discovery, and his men were busy scouring the planet, trying to locate the next lion.
What little they had managed to translate of the message in red lion’s lair, pointed to water, of which there was plenty covering Arus’ world. Water made up nearly three-thirds the planet’s mass, lakes, rivers, and oceans scattered across the world. It had taken time to explore each of the volcanos on Arus’ world, his men having to push back their fright at being inside active volcanos to find their prize. The water exploration was a welcome relief compared to the volcano’s fire and lava.
And still it was time consuming, Doom having to import vehicles that could go to the deepest depths of the oceans. Arus itself had little in resources when it came to sea diving vehicles, much of their machines had either been destroyed or taken away as Doom property. The seas of Arus weren’t exactly peaceful either, teeming with underwater life, from the harmless, colorful fish to deadly sea beasts that would aggressively charge the deep sea vehicles.
It forced them to be accompanied by guards, mini subs designed for efficient movement in water, and armed with weaponry meant to chase off those beasts that thought to take a bite out of the exploration vehicles.
Lotor had a dozen scientist and language experts working on the messages found in the lion’s lairs. They felt certain the messages pointed to the exact location of the next lion, but they were unable to read the ancient dialect completely. Arusians were brought in, but they all feigned ignorance at being able to read the messages, even when Lotor’s men threatened them with torture and death. It seemed the people of Arus were determined to not give Doom their lions, making it clear how they disapproved of their ancient legend falling into Drule hands with their continued defiance.
Zarkon’s witch Cortana, was eager for a chance to go to the planet Arus. One could say she was chomping at the bit, wanting to explore the lions and the magic that surrounded them. She was confidant she could find out all their secrets, maybe even discover a way to reproduce them. That certainly got Zarkon’s attention, the King just as eager as ever to have a whole fleet of lions at his command. But he bade Cortana wait until all five had been found, the king not wanting to be without his most loyal witch for so long. Especially not during this time of war, when Queen Merla continued to land assassins on planet Doom.
Already three more had been caught, all in various stages of guilt, trying to get close to the king, and one had even dared to lift his hand to Lotor. It was nerve wracking business, Lotor worrying over what would happen if an assassin turned their attention to Allura. She was still unable to defend herself, having to rely on Lotor and the guards for protection. Lotor tried to push Haggar to hurry in teaching Allura defensive magic, but the witch insisted that learning took time. Time Lotor felt they might not have.
Though right now, save for the assassination attempts, little was being done in terms of fighting out this war with the Queen. The standby fleet was poised to reach planet Mindigula any day now, the remains of the Doom armada impatient to leave that world and press on to Amazonia. Communication was kept up between the armada and Doom, filling Lotor and the king on what little they had managed to learn from the prisoners they had interrogated. Which wasn’t much, except for one sly general who hinted that the worse was yet to come in regard to Amazonia’s attacks.
His father, King Zarkon was hardly worried, the Drule more interested in getting a hold of one of the Queen’s so called ultimate weapons. He wanted it for himself, wanted to disassemble it, to learn it’s secrets, and have reproductions made. It almost rivaled Zarkon’s interest with the lions, the king eager and impatient for new toys.
Lotor was intrigued by the Queen’s weapon, but not to the point that he wanted to risk more men’s lives to capture it intact. If anything, Lotor was wishing for a speedy end to the war, so that he could focus all his attentions on Allura. She was the one bright spot in his life, the only times he could truly relax was around her. Lotor tried to spend as much time as he could afford to by Allura’s side, having duel reasons for doing so. He wanted the calmness of mind being around her brought him, but he also desperately needed that time to try and win her over, bring her heart to further open up to him.
He had a few tricks up his sleeves, where Allura’s heart was concerned. He took to heart her love of flowers, sending for imports of night blooming plants. He was building a secret green house inside the castle, one that would be a marvel of flowers that would thrive in the forever night of planet Doom. It would be his gift to Allura, a garden she could love and care for.
Lotor still wanted to shower her in jewels, but he held back, remembering how she said she liked simple pieces. Instead he focused on other ways to impress her, planning an outing that would take them beyond the castle walls. It was this day that they were to travel to one of the cities on the outskirts of the castle’s lands, Lotor hoping a change of scenery would do wonders for Allura’s mood.
He was currently sitting in the outer chamber of his former bedroom, the detailed reports on his lap as he waited for Allura to finish dressing. Indeed the thought of leaving the castle had brought a spark to her eyes, the girl unable to hide her excitement at the thought. He hadn’t realized it until he saw how lively she became at the prospect of leaving Castle Doom, that Allura was bored inside it’s stone walls.
Lotor was beginning to mull over ways to stimulate Allura’s mind, when the door to the bedroom opened. He immediately looked up, feeling some of his breath steal away at the sight of her. As always, she was dressed in soft pastel colors, a pale blue that rivaled his own skin’s color. It was a strappy number, with thin, spaghetti like bands that laced up and down the length of her arms, and formed a criss cross pattern across her back.
Her hair was loose, save for the sides which formed twin braids that bound their way to the back of her hair, a pale blue clip holding them in place. All that blue merely made her eyes sparkle even more, Allura carrying a white shawl to place over her arms. His reports forgotten, Lotor stood, the papers rustling as they fell onto the couch cushions.
“You look wonderful.” Lotor breathed out, covering the distance to Allura in just a few steps. She blushed at his words, allowing him to catch her hand, and press a kiss into the back of it.
“Thank you.” Allura said, her free hand nervously smoothing down the ankle length skirt of her dress.
“I mean it.” Lotor continued, still holding onto her hand. “You will draw all the attention when we reach the city.” A chuckle then, Lotor grinning. “I dare say they won’t even remember I am their prince when they see you!”
“Oh I hope not!” Allura exclaimed, looking dismayed at the thought. “I really don’t want to be the center of attention.”
“You’re the center of MY attention.” Lotor told her, and tucked her arm under his, ready to walk her towards the door. “No matter what is going on, I find it difficult to think of anything else when you’re near.” Allura said nothing to do that, Lotor wondering if he had gone too far in his praise of her. He knew she didn’t like it when he displayed obsessive behavior towards her, but Lotor found it so hard not to do just that!
“Is it far?” Allura asked, as they stepped out into the hall. Cossack was waiting, along with several guards that had been chosen to accompany them on their excursion. “The city I mean?”
“Not too far.” Lotor assured her. “A few miles at best.” He nodded at Cossack, the commander falling into stride besides him. “Is everything ready?”
“Yes, your highness.” Cossack answered, with a nod of his head. “There should be no problems encountered on your visit to the city.” He spoke in Drule, fast and furious in an attempt to hide what was being said to Allura. And still she picked up on one word, echoing it in Drule.
“It’s nothing.” Lotor assured her, patting her hand. He didn’t want her to know that his men had been to the town, making sure the less desirable aspects of city life would be hidden out of sight for Allura’s visit. He didn’t want to upset her with the sight of slaves being ordered around, to see them doing back breaking work, and being beaten by their owners for slights both real and imagined.
The people had been told to keep their slaves inside their homes for now, and though they grumbled and protested, Allura would only see proper Drule citizens wandering the streets of the city.
And still Allura look worried, glancing back and forth from Cossack to Lotor. “Is it safe?” She finally asked, looking worried. “To go to the city at this time?”
“Of course it is.” Lotor told her, trying a smile on her. “The war can’t touch us here on Doom.”
“But…” She hesitated, long enough for Lotor to urge her to speak what was on her mind. “The assassination attempts. Won’t they try for us in the city too?” He couldn’t help jerking his head in Cossack’s direction, giving him a smoldering stare. The commander turned sheepish, and shrugged, offering up an apology.
“Sorry boss. I didn’t know it wasn’t okay to tell her about the assassination attempts.”
“You talk far too much for a man in your position.” Muttered Lotor, still glowering at his friend.
“It’s all right Lotor.” Allura said, pulling on his arm so that he turned his attention to her. “I wanted….needed to know. You shouldn’t try to hide such things from me.”
“I don’t want you to be upset.” Lotor retorted. “It’s not good for you or the baby!”
“I think it’s a little impossible for me to remain completely calm during this war.” Allura pointed out as they turned a corner, the group walking in the direction of the castle’s hanger area.
“Still stress is not good for you in this condition.” Lotor told her, his voice rife with concern. “I’d like for you to avoid it if you can.”
“If you keep me in the dark, I’ll only worry more.” Allura said, shaking her head. “I’ll think of all kinds of what ifs, of horrific possibilities that you’re not telling me.”
It seemed his beloved was a natural born worrier, Lotor holding back a sigh as they walked down the stair case that led into the hanger area. “All right Allura. I will try not to keep secrets from you about this war.”
“Thank you.” A small smile from Allura, the girl looking pleased to hear his promise. They cleared the final steps of the stair case, the accompanying guards hurrying forward towards the cruiser that had been selected as their transport for the day’s excursion. It had already been swept for bombs several times within the last few hours, but the guards were checking it over anyway. Better to delay them a few moments, then risk stepping into a vehicle that had been rigged to explode.
“Cossack, you’re in charge during my absence.” Lotor told the commander. “I doubt there will be any sudden changes to the status of things, but just in case….you have my personal com number.”
“Yes, Prince Lotor.” Cossack grinned. “Leave everything to me. I won’t disturb you unless something major happens.”
“See that you don’t.” Lotor said, tone cold. He wanted nothing to interfere on this outing with Allura.
“What are they doing?” Allura asked, staring at the guards, two of which held scanning devices in their hands, as they ran them over the surface of the cruiser.
“It’s merely a precaution.” Lotor was quick to make his voice reassuring, giving her hand a tiny squeeze. “They’re checking to make sure no one has implanted any sort of device onto our cruiser.”
“Device?” She echoed, looking confused.
“Bombs.” Cossack clarified, the word making the girl pale in fright.
Lotor shot Cossack another glare, but tried to offer comfort to Allura. “Do not worry. Our scanning devices are top notch. They will catch any sort of explosives long before they are ready to go off. There’s no danger to you or I.”
“Are you sure?” She asked, and he could feel the tremble in her arm. “Maybe we shouldn’t go…”
“I’m not about to let the Queen scare me into hiding inside my own castle.” Lotor told her. “And you shouldn’t let her do that to you either. Don’t worry Allura, my men and I will protect you. Nothing bad will happen.” Allura still looked so unsure, biting her lip as she hesitated. Lotor began speaking on the allure of the city, trying to tempt her to overlook her fear.
“There’s many things to do in the city.” Lotor said, catching her gaze with his eyes. “Entertainment’s of all kinds. The opera, and the carnival. Many restaurants and stores, places to go star gazing. It is very different from the castle, it will take weeks before you can become bored in the city.”
“Really?” She looked intrigued despite herself, her looks of doubt fading.
“Really.” Confirmed Lotor. “You may find yourself wanting to stay for more than just this day.” He had wanted it to be a surprise, but desperate times called for desperate measures to persuaded her otherwise. “I already have accommodations booked for us at a friend’s mansion. If you like, we can spend the rest of the week exploring the city and all it has to offer.”
“I’d like that.” Allura admitted, then added the following. “But won’t you be needed at the castle? Won’t your father get angry at you for spending so much time away? So much time with me?”
“He’ll just have to learn to deal with it.” Smirked Lotor. “And anything that requires my attention can be sent to me via my communicator. So Allura, I really can take this time off to show you the wonders of the city.”
“All right then..” Allura smiled. “I’m ready when you are.”
“Excellent.” Lotor grinned, then nodded at Cossack. “I’ll see you in a few days commander.”
“Enjoy.” Cossack advised him, watching as the pair strode closer to the cruiser. The guards had finished their scans, and one of the men held open the rear door, allowing Lotor to usher Allura inside the cruiser. The guards themselves climbed aboard hover bikes, the two person vehicles would surround the cruiser, performing as armed escorts, that were ready to shoot first, and ask questions later in defense of their prince and his pregnant companion.
The men and women working in the hanger, all paused to watch the procession as it prepared to leave. The docking bay doors slowly began to open, red lights flowing along the sides of them, as cruiser and hover bikes powered up. Lotor himself leaned against the cushioned seat of the cruiser, one arm casually resting behind Allura’s shoulders. Allura herself was bristling with excitement, staring out the left window as though she couldn’t wait to catch her first glimpse of the world outside the castle.
Lotor smiled to himself, as the cruiser and it’s escorts began a slow drive forward, maneuvering past other vehicles and people as it headed for the rocky plains that began the moment the castle’s tarmac ended. Once clear of it, the vehicles put on a burst of speed, engines powering up with a loud hum. At the speed they would soon achieve, it wouldn’t take more than an hour to reach the city. Lotor could not wait to show off the city’s marvels to Allura, and from the excited sounds she made as Allura gazed out the window, he knew she couldn’t wait either!