He had been right about not relaxing. Lotor had been anxious, so sick with worry that, his body had been gone stiff with displeasure. Those feelings had lasted the entire trip from Doom to Arus, and even once the planet was in sight, Lotor had not been able to calm down one bit. Part of it had to do with the head start Merla and her ships had had on Lotor’s. They had left several hours before Lotor was even alerted to Merla’s disappearance, and though the prince’s fleet had broken all manner of laws and set new records for speeding, they still hadn’t been able to catch up to the Queen.
Lotor had tried not to let his worry make his imagination go crazy. He’d have really made himself sick then, coming up with countless scenarios where Merla gave in to her murderous impulses and hurt, even killed Allura. He tried not to do it, though on occasion he found himself slipping, mind going down those dark paths. Lotor would quickly shake off such thoughts, growling at himself for his foolishness. But part of the problem had to do with how little he had known. The man they had captured, some low ranking minion of Merla’s, hadn’t had much to tell them. Even under the most extreme of tortures, he had remained adamant that what he knew at most was that his Queen had gone to Arus, with the specific purpose of killing Allura.
Of course Merla had been careful to keep from letting it slip that jealousy drove her actions. Her official reason for going to Arus, was to capture the planet for Doom. It was just chance, or so Merla would like them to believe, that Allura would be the first casualty of the Queen’s efforts. Lotor knew better. Merla thought she was in competition with Allura. Merla viewed the princess as her rival for Lotor’s affections, not realizing that to remove Allura would not win her Lotor’s heart. If anything it would earn her a place as Lotor’s enemy, painting a target on the Queen’s back.
For Lotor, the Princess Allura of Arus was it. His one love, his one true desire. He felt no other woman could replace her, nor did he want them to try. He wished Merla could understand and accept that, and yet a part of him felt flattered that the Queen wanted him so badly. But such flattery wouldn’t spare her if any harm befell Allura. He would pay Merla back, kill her if necessary. And damn if he didn’t feel a twinge of regret at the thought of having to end the Queen’s life.
Lotor refused to think in depth about why Merla had begun to matter to him to the point he didn’t want to have to kill her. He refused to think he was starting to become attached to her, that he might tolerate her for anything other than sex. He certainly didn’t want to think about how Merla’s obsessive attraction to him fed into a part of Lotor’s ego, which only served to make him cocky and flattered feeling.
Nor did he want to think of the other reason why it was so important to get to Merla before she made her move against Allura. His fleet hadn’t been able to catch up to Merla’s, but they had tried numerous times to contact her ships. Each repeated attempt was ignored, Merla’s fleet maintaining radio silence over the air waves. They weren’t accepting calls from anyone, not from Lotor, not even from Doom.
Zarkon, his father, was belligerent under the best of circumstances. He was even worse once he realized that both Lotor and Merla were gone, both on unauthorized missions to Arus, and taking his best fleets with them. He was hardly thrilled to learn these missions were fueled by feelings, that this was more crime of passion than any real plan to take down Voltron. He had tried to order Lotor back to Doom, Zarkon insisting he himself would deal with Merla and her reckless.use of Doom resources to settle a marital dispute. Lotor had refused Zarkon on all counts, insisting this was a matter between him and his wife, one he would handle on his own.
Zarkon had tried to argue against Lotor’s stance. In the end, the prince had cut the transmission, and refused any further calls from his father. Lotor knew he would be in even bigger trouble for doing that, but at the moment he didn’t care. Getting to Allura and Merla in time was all that mattered, consequences be damned.
He had had the ships pushed to their limits, or as close as Lotor had dared. There was only so fast they could go before the engines would start to overheat. Work them once they reached that stage, and one risked the engines exploding. It tested Lotor’s patience, the prince knowing they couldn’t afford to have the engines die on them before they reached Arus. Technicians were called down to the engine rooms, manually laboring to keep the engines cool through the use of ice water.
Somehow they eventually made it to planet Arus. But the fleet was on it’s last leg in terms of mobility. Shaky and slow, they would hardly be in any state to engage enemy ships. Fortunately for them, Arus’ own military was involved with fighting Merla’s fleet, and could not break away to attack Lotor’s ships. Not with the sky crawling with star cutters, what had to be several thousand of the one man fighter craft in the air. Arus’ own numbers was pitiful when compared to the amount of Doom ships present, but then the planet had always relied on the lions of Voltron to do the bulk of the fighting for them.
Lotor scanned the skies, not just with his ship’s devices, but with his own two eyes. Searching for Allura’s lion. It would take almost thirty minutes before they confirmed his fears. Blue lion was nowhere to be found amidst the battle! The other four lions were present, darting from ship to ship, taking down star cutters sometimes by the dozens. Their weapons were busy, laser fire and photon blasts, and even missiles being launched. At times the lions would call upon the elements they commanded, using lighting, wind, even fire to destroy ships.
The lions were making all the difference, keeping Merla’s soldiers from completely wiping out Arus’ ships. A robeast should have been launched in order to distract the lions, but there was a noticeable absence of any such monster from the battle field. The castle of lions stood in the center of all this fighting, and from the building laser shots were being fired. This might be the most intense battle Arus had seen in recent months, and yet it was all a cover for Merla to get close enough to Allura!
Lotor was standing at the rail that separated his command chair from the rest of the deck. He was gripping the railing hard, glaring at the forward facing view screens. He was angry, tense and worried. He didn’t know what Merla was doing, but feared she had succeeded in harming Allura. And all because Lotor knew there was little else that could keep the princess from piloting her lion during such an intense attack on her planet.
Cossack was standing a little to the left of him, the man having maintained silence except for a few awed curses he muttered out. This battle was an impressive sight, but if Arus handed them yet another defeat, it would prove nothing more than a massive waste of resources for planet Doom. Lotor did not want to think of the bitching his father would do then, nor did he want to root for Merla to succeed. Not when the cost might very well be Allura’s life!
“Are they still refusing our hailing?” Lotor suddenly growled out. Cossack seemed to snap to attention, repeating the question to a nearby technician. That Drule would shake her head no, almost cringing to relay the news. Lotor’s fists tightened harder on the railing, his expression one of pure rage.
“Wh…what do you want us to do, prince?” Cossack asked.
“Have one of our largest ships prepare to ram Merla’s flag ship.” Lotor announced, hearing the surprised gasps from many onboard the command deck. “We’ll see how long they can ignore us when we do that!”
“Are you sure sire?” asked one of the higher ranking soldiers. Lotor just glared at him, but it was Cossack who snapped out a retort.
“Don’t question orders! If Prince Lotor says to do something, he’s serious about it!” The commander began shouting orders, which were relayed over the airwaves to the other ships. The fleet’s engines might be in danger of exploding, but nothing could stop the star cutters they carried from being released. The small ships would join the fight, targeting both their own people and the Arusians ships. They weren’t trying to blow anyone out of the sky, just clear a path for the slow moving Destroyer to begin it’s hurtle towards Merla’s flag ship.
More than three dozen star cutters flanked the large Destroyer class ship. They provided cover for the ship, shooting at any that dared to move too close to it. Merla’s flag ship was held further back in the battle, keeping out of the heart of it. It was well away from the lions, leaving that danger behind but staying vulnerable to an attack from Lotor’s fleet. Lotor watched, but couldn’t so much as smile, as the Destroyer drew closer and closer to Merla’s ship. They were going to hit each other, but at the speed the Destroyer was going at, it wouldn’t do much damage.
There was barely any explosions when the Destroyer rammed the flag ship. The sides that touched, smoked, metal plating scraping off and revealing the delicate, vulnerable wiring beneath it. The large ship was preparing to back up and ram the flag ship a second time, when one of the communication technicians called out to Lotor.
“Your highness!” He said, voice excited. “We are receiving an urgent call from the flag ship!” Expectant eyes turned to Lotor, waiting for the prince’s command. He’d actually think about letting the ship be rammed a second time, before he grudgingly conceded he didn’t have time for such pettiness.
“Put the call through.” Lotor decided, and the communications technician hurried to do just that. Lotor tried to relax his grip on the railing, but the sight of just who had contacted him nearly made him snap the rail in half in a fit of anger. “Haggar?!” He snarled out the witch’s name, incensed beyond belief. “You traitorous witch!” His tone promised a reckoning between them, but right now he was more concerned over Merla’s whereabouts. “Where is that bitch wife of mine?!”
Haggar seemed to flinch back from his question. She was visibly nervous, her one hand constantly petting her familiar, Coba. “Prince Lotor…there is no need to be so angry…”
“The hell there isn’t!”
“Queen Merla is merely giving us the victory that has eluded Doom for so long.” continued the witch.
“She hasn’t won Arus for us yet!” Lotor reminded her. “Now where is she? What has she done to Allura?”
“To Allura?” Haggar echoed, trying for a frown. “Oh dear me, is the princess of Arus somehow involved in this?”
“Don’t play stupid witch!” Lotor ordered. “I know Merla has come to Arus with the express purpose to kill Allura! I want to know the details, the hows, the whens, and if it’s not too late to stop her. And I want to know what role you play in all this as well!”
“Would it really be so bad if the princess died?” Haggar wondered out loud, instead of answering his questions. Lotor’s expression darkened in response. “I mean, Merla is a fine female, she makes a more than adequate wife for you. She’s certainly a more fitting queen than that princess could ever be…”
He didn’t bother to argue with Haggar, just speaking at a low growl to his commander. “Cossack, do it.”
“Right away your highness!” Immediately the order was relayed, the Destroyer ramming the flag ship. Haggar actually began to scream, almost falling against a counter as the ship rocked in response.
“Prince Lotor, what are you doing?!” Haggar demanded with a screech. Coba was hissing, tail twitching angrily as the cat reacted to his mistress’ upset.
“Haggar, you have half a minute to begin giving me answers, or I will open up fire on your ship. And trust me when I say we will aim to kill.” Lotor felt decidedly calm when he threatened his father’s witch.
“You wouldn’t dare!” She gasped.
“Gotcha!” A photon beam slammed into Hagagr’s ship, alarms going off in response to the damage done. Haggar managed to look both frightened and angry, but she began telling Lotor what he wanted to know.
“Merla is not even here!” She cried out. “She’s down in the forest. No doubt Allura is with her at this time!”
“Allura…” Lotor breathed out, then began rattling off orders. “Start scanning the forest for life signs. See if you can’t registers their heat signatures through the tree’s foliage. Get my private ship ready to launch. I’m going down there.”
Lotor still had many questions for Haggar. “How in the world did Merla get Allura to meet with her away from the castle?” Haggar actually looked guilty, seeming to fidget as she tried to calm down Coba. “Haggar…!”
“I…I may have had a hand in that.” She reluctantly admitted.
“What did you do?!” Lotor demanded with a snarl.
She was unable to meet his eyes for her confession. “I merely gave a boost to Queen Merla’s powers…”
“Yes. So she’d be strong enough to control Allura’s mind from a longer distance.” Haggar’s explanation made Lotor let out a curse. Merla was a telepath, with some modicum of power. But even she needed to be relatively close to her chosen targets, to be able to affect their thoughts, and compel them to do as she wanted. Without Haggar’s help, Merla would have had to have been within the actual castle’s walls when Allura was, in order to control her.
He didn’t even want to think about what commands Merla would give Allura. Lotor glared at Haggar, growling softly. “I’ll deal with you later, traitor.” His tone was one that promised big trouble for the witch, and Haggar looked suitable frightened. But she pulled herself together, long enough to say something more.
“Your father won’t see my actions as traitorous. If anything, he’d be pleased by what I attempted to do.”
“It’s not my father you’ll have to deal with if Allura ends up dead!” Lotor snarled, and cut off the transmission. He let go of the railing, already intent on heading to his private ship. Commander Cossack would follow, communicator in hand to keep them abreast of the situation down below. Lotor didn’t care much about the fighting, waiting for word that their scanners had located Merla and Allura. The news couldn’t come fast enough, word arriving that they found what had to be the two females several miles deep in the forest.
Lotor ordered them to download the coordinates to his private ship, already entering into the hanger area. There weren’t many Drules here save for a few repairmen and technicians. Lotor’s own ship was fueled and ready for lift off, the prince climbing inside it. Cossack stood a few feet back, watching with a serious expression. With Lotor gone, the commander would now be in charge of the fleet’s actions. Lotor trusted Cossack implicitly, knowing the commander would make good decisions on what actions the fleet would take.
After an exchange of gruff nods, Lotor turned his attention to his ship’s controls. The computer was already activated, the coordinates downloaded into it. He’d begin start up procedures, the fighter jet’s engines screaming to life with a roar. The Drules present were all backing away, the hanger’s doors opening. Lotor guided his ship towards those doors, and pushed down on a lever. With a burst of speed, he went roaring through the doors, ship gliding through the air.
His own men immediately moved to surround him, forming a shield around him. They would protect him long enough for Lotor to fly down towards the forest. He flipped switches as he guided his ship in a downwards spiral. The screen would light up, heat signatures being registered. It wasn’t just people the ship picked up, he saw signs of animal life as well. But he wasn’t concerned with the agitated animals, zeroing in on the moving figures of what he hoped was Allura and Merla.
He didn’t fill with relief to see that both were moving. Not with their movements so erratic, the two clearly fighting. One figure was faster moving than the other, and Lotor was sure that one had to be Merla. He had his ship break away from his guards, and dive through the foliage of the trees. Under the forest cover, he was ignored by the ships battling above him.
The two figures were still fighting, chasing each other until one somehow fell. He wasn’t close enough to make out details of just who was who, but he noted how quickly the one standing pounced on the fallen one. He sped as quick as he dared through the forest, ship firing off a warning shot. It was an attempt to make the two pull apart, the shot hitting to the right of them, blowing apart a tree.
A second shot would send up clods of dirt, Lotor drawing near enough to see it was Merla on top of Allura. The queen had her hands around the princess’ neck, Allura feebly beating her hands against Merla’s body. But her blows were weakening, slowing down as the very life was choked out of her. Lotor growled, and screamed out Merla’s name. The Queen would actually glance over her shoulder, a desperate, enraged look in her eyes as she snarled at him. She didn’t let go of Allura though, still trying to end the girl’s life.
There was no time to stop and land his ship. Lotor began hitting buttons, setting the ship to auto pilot even as the roof slid back. Using his sword to slice open his seat belt, Lotor stood, ready to make the leap to the ground below. He’d bellow as he jumped, going down from a height that would have broken a human’s leg. But he was not human, Lotor able to safely land on his feet.
He didn’t even take a moment to catch his breath, Lotor charging towards Merla and Allura. At the last possible second, Merla let go of Allura. She screamed as she did so, a vile curse escaping her lips. Allura was left gasping, gagging on the very air she breathed. She was too stunned to even try to get up, Lotor leaping over Allura’s body to pursue Merla.
Only, she wasn’t doing much running, Merla moving only enough to stay out of reach of Lotor’s sword. Her face looked as angry as Lotor felt, but there was also a tiredness to her. He didn’t understand it, taking a wild swing at Merla that would have decapitated her had the Queen not ducked. Lotor was already responding to that avoidance, lashing out so that his foot caught the Queen in the chest. With a startled cry, she fell onto her back, Lotor’s sword thrusting it’s tip into her face.
It took all of his restraint not to drive it any farther forward. Merla’s eyes seemed to cross for a moment, staring at the sword tip that was so dangerously close to them. And then she looked past his sword, to cast up a defiant look. Lotor felt his own anger increase, and it was with a deep, rasping hiss that he spoke.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just kill you right here and right now.”
Her glare deepened for a second, just before giving way to that puzzling tiredness. “I am pregnant with YOUR child.” Merla announced. It was the last thing he had been expecting. Of all the things Merla could have said in the moment, from begging for her life, to mentioning how displeased his father would be if Lotor killed her, this was THAT unexpected. It actually made Lotor pull back his sword, the prince sure he was gaping in shocked astonishment at the Queen.