Slave 093

The chair creaked with his weight, Lotor leaning back against it’s cushioned rear. His hands were resting on the armrests, but they were not idle, fingers tapping out a nervous rhythm on the hard plastic. His whole body read of his tension, Lotor frowning, knowing he needed to be calm before he made his next call. It would do no one any good to see their prince on edge, especially when he was coming to them to cash in on favors owed.

Lotor knew the nobles would be leery under the best of circumstances, not apt to lend their aid eagerly. But they’d do it if they knew what was good for them, the nobles knowing the prince would not tolerate those who welshed on the promises they had made him. He knew he was putting them between a rock and a hard place, forcing them to choose between the man they owed their lives to, and the king they had sworn fealty to. Lotor understood it was a hard decision, but couldn’t afford to show the weakness that came with that knowledge.

For an instant he was tempted to take a drink, knowing that wine would do much to soothe his nerves. But it would also dull his mind, and lead him quicker to anger. Such an emotion would only be damaging his case, he need to be calm and in control of all his faculties. So much was riding on him at this moment, the safety of not just Allura and his unborn children, but of the kingdom itself, and it’s people.

Nearly a week had passed since the war with Merla had come to an unofficial end, and his father had done little to right the wrongs he had done during the battles. The city that had been trampled by Merla’s army and Doom’s robeast continued to lie ruined, rubble strewn everywhere. It wasn’t the only city to have suffered during the war, a few robeasts had strayed near to other cities, damaging their borders before lying down to die.

The decaying bodies of the robeasts lay everywhere, their stench stinking up the planet. The people of Doom were mounting protests, not liking how slow the clean up of the bodies was. Nor were they thrilled by the packed conditions of their cities, the refuges having been stationed in the three closest to the castle.

There was thousands dead, mostly the soldiers of both armies. Not all the bodies had been claimed, people filled with grief and antagonized by being denied the right to properly bury their dead. Assurances came from the castle that they would get their chance to hold funerals, begging the people for their patience. Quietly, Zarkon mused it would be easier to just hold a huge bonfire burning of the dead. It was a thought that had his subordinates horrified, shocked that the king would show such a lack of respect for those who had fought so hard for Doom.

Ships from both sides of the war littered the plains surrounding the castle, downed craft cluttering the ground. Those closest to the castle had already been cleared away, picked for spare parts, as space was made so that new ships could land. These ships carried the provisions that had been denied to Doom during the war, imported food and materials, replenishing the castle’s under stocked storage.

The castle had been deemed the most important, taking priority over the cities for both repair and receiving goods. The people felt it was gross example of misconduct, the nobility exploiting their status. They were right to, Lotor recalling how the king had laughed at the thought of seeing to the people’s needs first.

Discontent was brewing, and Lotor had had little time to rest on his heels. His father’s thoughtless actions had kept Lotor busy, the prince having little time to himself to pursue his own pleasure, and to further his own plots. It was why this call had been so delayed, Lotor trying to hide his desperation at gathering the nobles for a meeting. Time was of the essence, valuable and limited at the moment. It had taken some fine management to get all the nobles he needed to contact to agree to the meeting, Lotor knowing that some had to rearrange their busy schedules for this to happen.

He glanced at his chrono meter, seeing the time was ticking down to the appointed hour. Lotor exhaled, a deep breath escaping him, his body going relaxed as he sat up straight. He began typing in transmitter codes, having secured a line for just this purpose.

The screens crackled with static, and then one by one, they lit up on a person, the images on the screen splitting into smaller boxes until over a dozen men and women were cloistered on his monitors. A quick glance at their faces showed how nervous they were, tight wrinkles around the eyes and mouth betraying their feelings on being contacted in this manner.

Each noble was in their own home, inside their private offices, with their attendants dismissed. They wanted to risk no one overhearing this clandestine meeting, Lotor giving a slight nod of his head in hello. The reaction was immediate, voices mingling to greet him as each lord or lady bowed to their prince.

“Gentleman.” Lotor said, tone serious, expression lacking his usual smile. “Ladies. It’s good of you to meet with me.” They made murmured sounds of agreement, but their eyes were distracted for the moment. The nobles were studying the images on their own view screen, catching their first glimpses of the people who had allied with Lotor. He could see the shock in their eyes, the men and women surely wondering what Lotor had over them to get them to meet with him like that.

It was also a well thought out selection, none of these nobles were enemies with the people Lotor had made allies of. They may not have all been friends, but none of them had ever wage war, or turned their greedy eyes to another’s city. And they all shared a thing or two in common, owing their continued existence to Lotor’s protection, and having promised to pay him back.

“Prince Lotor…” A green skinned Drule spoke, his darker colored head ridges looking wet with nervous sweat. “To what do we owe this honor?”

“I think you know Duke Zybata.” Came Lotor’s reply, the prince noting Zybata’s shifty look. The man surely had some idea, and was afraid to voice it, as if keeping quiet would keep it from becoming reality. “It’s a time of action…” Lotor continued, leaning back in his seat. “It’s a time for….change.”

“What sort of change?” A woman, Lady Meralabeth asked, her tone a tad suspicious.

“One that will benefit the people of Doom, ALL the people.” Lotor said, resisting the urge to smile. “You know the situation as it stands cannot be allowed to continue….People suffering, going hungry and without roofs over their heads. The Empire has taken so much, it’s time it start giving back, and to the people that rely on it.”

“Easier said then done.” A lord named Umata grumbled. “The king is stingy, he refuses to open the treasury to supply the cities with the gold it needs to recover from this war.”

“It’s fallen on our shoulders…” complained Meralabeth. “To provide money and goods to the people of our cities. It’s draining our resources, leaving us no better off than the poor out on the streets!”

The others grumbled in agreement, showing how little they liked being responsible for funding their individual cities with their gold. Lotor waiting for their angry murmurs to fall silent, then spoke. “I’m doing what I can from my sides of things to help but…” A shrug of his shoulders, Lotor spreading his hands wide. “My father keeps my hands tied when it comes to the planet’s treasury.”

“Something needs to be done!” The others were quick to agree with Zybata, though hesitant to say what that something was.

“And it will be….with your help of course.” Lotor said, and now he smiled, just a slight curling of his lips. “It’s time for a change in rulers….time for the old regime to step down…willing or not.” An uneasy shift from his audience, the nobles looking unsure.

“The planet cannot afford another war….” began a wrinkled old Drule, the elderly Lord Tumere. “We’ve nearly been bankrupted funding the one with Queen Merla. Damages were extensive, too many lives lost.”

“I don’t intend to lead us into civil war.” Lotor interrupted. “No….my plan is far simpler in it’s design.”

“Just what is your plan?” Meralabeth asked, and the others showed their interest.

“A simple…..overthrowing of my father.” Lotor said, and someone snorted, their derisive laugh turning into a hasty cough. “Now is the time to strike. He is without council of a witch…”

“I had heard his Cortana had been killed.” Tumere said. “That leaves the King weakened…”

“And far easier to kill.” Lotor nodded his head. His audience seemed uneasy at his blatant use of the word kill. “Come now ladies, gentleman. We all know he needs to be disposed of. And he’s not apt to step down willingly.”

“Can you do it?” Umata asked. “Can you really kill your own father?”

“In a heartbeat.” Lotor answered, and silence descended on the conversation. Lotor sat waiting, watching them digest his words.

“What do you need?” asked Tumere at last, Lotor not betraying his relief at the question.

“Nothing you can’t spare. I need men….men who will be willing to fight for me. Men who will be loyal to me when the time comes to decide between my father and me.”

“You want us to deploy our private armies.” Realized Zybata.

“Just the men you can spare.” Lotor corrected. “My father won’t be suspicious of me brining in new men to bolster our depleted army. The men that replace our dead need to be ones I can trust. My supporters must outnumber the ones on my father’s side. Else the coup will fail.”

“King Zarkon is a fool if he’s left it up to you to hire new men for his army.” Commented Meralabeth.

“Hmph. My father has grown to secure in his own position. He doesn’t dream that the people will grow discontent and want to replace him.” Lotor told her, a sneer curling his lips.

“What about the guards inside the palace?” asked Tumere. “How will you replace them without him noticing.”

“He barely pays attention to the faces of those not in his personal guard.” Lotor said. “It will be easy to sneak in new men under his nose. I’ve already made plans to transport the new men into the castle. I just need you to lend me those men.”

“If you’re to believe, you’ve thought of everything.” Lotor nodded in response to Meralabeth’s words.

“I like to think I have. Now…..will you lend me your aid?” There was a long pause, people lowering their eyes to avoid looking at their prince. Lotor fought to keep from showing his impatience, not liking the way they had fallen quiet.

“I will.” Spoke a new voice. “I will lend you my men as needed.” It was the Duke of Galbrodia, head held proudly as he gazed at his monitor. Lotor nodded, keeping his expression neutral so not to betray his gratefulness to the Drule. “It’s the least I can do, in return for the aid you gave me.” His look turned chiding, Galbrodia addressing the crowd.

“Many of us wouldn’t be alive if not for Prince Lotor. Our positions of power would not be as secure as they are if not for his protection.”

“But..” Meralabeth began, voice protesting. “It’s a lot to risk….what if he fails…”

“Have faith in me Lady Meralabeth.” Lotor spoke quickly. “I have too much to lose. I have children on the way. Children I will fight for…children I will protect to my last breath.”

“It’s more than we can say about the king.” Tumere said. “He abandoned the castle, fled the planet when it seemed Doom would lose to the Queen. At least our prince remained, ready to fight her against all odds. Prince Lotor, I too will lend you my men.”

“So will I.” Umata’s turn. “I have long since grown tired of the way Zarkon does things. He sits in his castle all day, safe and hidden away from the problems of the planet.”

“He spends more money on new conquests then on caring for our home world!” growled Zybata. “I too will lend you my men.” Others were speaking up, agreeing to aid Lotor’s cause until finally only Lady Meralabeth was left hesitating. He could see by the look on her face she felt the pressure to cave in, the woman sighing at last.

“I suppose if we’re all going to die, there’s no finer lot to do it with than the rest of you.” She locked eyes with Lotor. “If you fail….it will be all our heads that roll. One way or another.”

“I know.” Lotor acknowledge the seriousness of her words. “And I won’t fail.”

“You can’t guarantee that. But yes your highness….my army is at your disposal.” Meralabeth finished with a put upon sigh.

“Thank you my Lady. Thank you all.” Lotor steepled his fingers together, leaning towards the view screens. “Start weeding out the men you trust most. I expect them to arrive at the castle by the end of next week.”

“Yes Prince Lotor.” They all nodded, making sounds of agreement. Lotor nodded back, and then was keying in the codes that would cut the transmission short. One by one, the images of the nobles faded, until Lotor was left looking at a blank screen. He let out the breath he had been holding, feeling giddy with relief that the meeting had gone so well.

With a smile he stood, eyes seeking out the corner bar in his bedroom. It was perhaps an odd choice of place to hold such an important meeting, but it was the only room he had felt safe in. The only place in the castle he trusted to be truly free of listening devices. And even with the knowledge that all of his father’s bugs had been destroyed, Lotor had done a paranoid sweep of the room, searching for the umpteenth time.

But with neither bug nor witch to spy for him, Zarkon would be oblivious of what his son planned. That made Lotor chuckle, the prince pouring himself a celebratory drink. It was strange, but in a way he was almost grateful so many had died in the war. It gave Lotor the perfect excuse to bring in more men, one Zarkon would not concern himself with. Their army did need to be bolstered, as it stood now it wouldn’t be able to last against even a small invading force.

At least the shields were working, the jamming devices of the queen’s army having been knocked out of commission when the lions destroyed the remains of her armada. All over the planet, the disruptions the cities had experienced were no more, their shields activated in an instant. Doom’s scientists were eager to explore the wreckage of Merla’s armada, wanting to discover the secret behind her jamming device, and that devastating beam weapon. Zarkon too was chomping at the bit for those answers, displeased that their men had been unable to take a beam carrying ship intact.

With Merla’s men dead on Doom, and the ones in Mindigula’s prison not talking, it was up to the scientists to fathom the secrets of the beam. The King was ready to pay any amount of money to have the beam rebuilt, or a new one made from scratch. This obsession kept Zarkon occupied, kept him too busy to pay attention to what Lotor was doing.

Which suited the prince just fine, Lotor glad for Zarkon’s distraction. Not that the prince was content to trust that that was all Zarkon was doing. Lotor kept abreast of everything, and maintained an air of one preoccupied with the tasks given to him by his father. As far as Zarkon knew, Lotor was merely working to clean up the messes caused by the war, and restore the cities with as little gold as he had been given.

Of course, there was also Allura, Lotor sneaking time away to spend with his love. Zarkon didn’t even protest that, at last having seen Allura as a useful tool. A tool Lotor was determined to keep out of his father’s hands. So far Zarkon hadn’t pushed to force Allura into the role of pilot, and that alone made Lotor suspicious. Surely the king did not care that was just months away from giving birth. Not when he had a new weapon to play with!

But the lions were no longer on Doom, and that alone must be the reason why Zarkon waited with Allura. She couldn’t fly Voltron if the lions weren’t here to form the mighty robot, leaving Zarkon to occupy himself with the other weapons. The king hoped that once the planet Amazonia was captured, and the queen dealt with, the blue prints and schematics to the shield jammer and beam weapon would be discovered.

All of Doom was waiting with bated breath for the lions to arrive on the Queen’s doorstep, eager for Merla to meet her end at the hands of the lions. Lotor wished he could deliver the killing blow personally. A smirk on his face, he lifted his glass, eager for the rich flavor of the wine. Merla might not die at his hands, but his father would, and Lotor for one thought that day could not come any sooner.

~Soon.~ He thought, taking a deep sip of his drink, practically inhaling the blood red contents. ~Soon everything will fall into place. Your enemies will be dead, your kingdom secure, and with it Allura’s love.~ Lotor wouldn’t have been so confidant if he had realized just how difficult it would be to get all that he desired.

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