Freedom 08

The negotiations had taken all morning, and quite a bit of the afternoon too. They had to take frequent breaks as the lawyers argued amongst themselves, heated debates over the finer points of the treaty they were composing. Allura proved to be a shrewd negotiator, working out a deal that would guarantee Arus continued to prosper under Doom’s watchful eye. Her people would be treated humanely, Allura was firm on this, refusing to allow any hints of slavery to touch the planet.

Some concessions had to be made on her part, Allura reluctantly agreeing to a step down in power among the kingdoms of Arus. Her aunt, the Queen Orla would no longer be the next in line for the planet’s throne, indeed the woman would be fortunate if she was allowed to continue governing her small providence. Drule nobles and high ranking military men would be stationed on the planet as part of a new government, one that ultimately differed to King Zarkon.

As of now, Arus would be stripped of it’s military forces, left to depend on Doom for it’s protection. In time if the people proved themselves loyal to their new rulers, they would be allowed to join Doom’s military and fight for the glory of the Doom empire. Arus’ weapons were to be powered down, their castles made to bear Doom’s banners. It was unfortunate that the lions themselves, needed to remain on Planet Arus, but at least the Voltron Force would no longer be a problem.

Lotor smiled to himself, as he popped a juicy berry into his mouth, the remains of the day’s lunch scattered across the conference table. Part of the deal he had worked out with Allura was the immediate disbanding of the Voltron force. It went without saying that the princess would no longer pilot blue lion, her place now being at Lotor’s side. The four remaining pilots were to be shipped off to Galaxy Garrison, assigned new posts. They could continue with their military careers, or seek to escape into a life of civilian duty. Either way, they would be out of Lotor’s hair, no longer able to interfere with his plans.

Lotor glanced at Allura, who was studying the new set of documents before her. A pen was in her hand, tapping lightly against the table top as a sign of her nervousness. Lotor spoke, his voice amused. “Come now princess. No matter how hard you stare at those papers, and for how long, the writing won’t change.”

“I know that.” Allura said quietly, but still she hesitated to add her signature beneath Lotor’s.

“Then whatever are you looking for?” Lotor asked, noticing she had barely touched her meal.

“I just want to make sure there is no surprises.” Allura explained, eyes still staring at the document.

“You don’t trust my father’s lawyers.” Lotor stated, and Allura gave a quick nod of her head. “Allura…I can assure you. There is nothing added to this treaty without your consent. I wouldn’t jeopardize my chance to marry you at long last.” Still she didn’t sign the paper, Lotor fighting the urge to take hold of her hand, and force the signature out of her. “What more do you want?” Lotor asked her, hand smoothing back his hair in exasperation. “You’ve gotten the best deal possible for your people.”

“If only I could say the same about me.” Allura whispered, Lotor’s sharp hearing picking up her soft words. Annoyance flashed within him, Lotor biting back a growl. The lawyers were exchanging looks, surely wondering about the angry look that had crossed his face. Only Allura could hurt him like this, only she was capable of speaking words that left a sharp ache in his chest.

“Just sign the damn paper.” He barked out the command, seeing her stare at him wide eyed. He gazed back at her, trying to soften the look in his eyes, though his jaw remained set at a stubborn angle.

She seemed to sense his mood, realizing the time for delays was at an end. With a heavy sigh, she uncapped the pen, black ink scrawling out her name in neat cursive. Before she could regret her actions, Lotor snatched the document out from under her hand, not even giving the ink time to dry.

“Here.” He said, practically throwing the thick sheaf of papers at the lawyers. “See that copies are immediately made. And start a transmission to Arus, the Federation, and Garrison. Let them feast their eyes on the treaty and the terms laid out within.”

“Yes sire.” The three lawyers nodded as one, quick to collect the document from the table.

“And congratulations on your impending marriage.” Added the woman, eyes glancing from Lotor to Allura. “May you both be happy.”

Lotor could see Allura was anything but, sitting sadly at the table, pen still gripped tightly in her hand. Her eyes were downcast, staring at the table top, leaving Lotor to wonder at her thoughts. It should have been a moment of victory for him, but now Allura’s sad mood only served to agitate him, leaving Lotor in an increasingly foul mood. He wondered what it would take to lift her spirits, Lotor displeased that his attempts to make amends with her by negotiating a good treaty for her planet had failed.

“Come Allura.” Lotor placed a hand on the back of her chair, fingers brushing against her hair. “We’re leaving now.”

“O….okay.” She said, at last setting down the pen. She eased back her chair, metal legs grinding on the floor as she stood. He didn’t wait for her, already moving towards the door, stepping out into the hallway with a brooding expression on his face. Servants bowed, but Lotor barely noticed them, too consumed with thoughts of how to get Allura to cease her moping.

She was following close behind him, he could smell her perfume, hear her light footsteps on the tile. She wasn’t speaking, Allura seeming not to care to initiate conversation with him. He was no better, his mood leaving him silent and angry. They passed through the corridors that led to his chambers in total silence, Lotor ushering her back inside his rooms.

The dining table was still set out, an untouched bottle of champagne sitting in a bucket of ground ice. Lotor had intended to offer it to Allura in celebration of the treaty being signed, but he instinctively knew she would be in no mood to partake of it’s sweet nectar.

Allura stepped into view, face looking uncertain as she glanced at him. He wondered if his silence bothered her, wondered if he should say something to set her at ease. But he feared his tongue would only prove acidic to her, Lotor finding it hard to be civil at the moment.

Allura maneuvered herself over to the divan, perching on the very edge of the cushioned seat. She smoothed her skirt down, folding her hands together. She was watching him now, eyes following his every movement as though it was the greatest of interest to her. Normally Lotor would have been thrilled by the attention, his fondest wish to be the center of her world. Now it just served to let him become more aware of her silence, Lotor letting out an all too loud sigh.

“Allura….” He began at the same moment she spoke, his name on her lips.

“Lotor….”

They looked at each other in surprise, the tension breaking between them. “How’s your chest?” Allura asked, causing Lotor to glance downwards. He could see the gauze through the opening in his shirt, the white bright against the black material.

“It’s fine.” He said at last, touching a hand to it.

“Have you been taking care of it?” She asked, and he couldn’t help smiling.

“Why Allura, is that concern in your voice?” He saw her flush, just the barest hint of a blush. “I could probably use a clean bandage.” He continued, walking towards his desk. “Will you help me with it?”

“All right.” He saw her nod out of the corner of his eye, the princess unfolding her hands. Retrieving fresh gauze from a drawer in his desk, Lotor approached her. Their fingers touched, just the tips as he deposited the gauze into her hands. She held onto it, watching as he began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Sit down.” Allura ordered, shifting on the divan. He complied, leaving his removed shirt draped across the curved backside of the divan.

Allura perched behind him, fingernails touching his back. Carefully, she began pealing the gauze, the white cotton trying to stick to his wound. The piece across the injury came away dirty, blood and a hint of yellow soiling the bandage. Lotor frowned, wondering if his chest would retain a scar.

“You’re lucky it wasn’t any deeper.” Allura murmured, stretching clean gauze across it.

“Any deeper and your Captain would have carved out my heart.” Lotor told her, tone matter of fact. “Would that have made you happy?”

“I’ve never wished for the death of anyone.” She sounded affronted, it leaked into her actions, Allura pulling the gauze too tight.

“Not even my father’s?” He asked, noting her silence. It spoke volumes to him, revealing that though she might try to deny it, even Allura harbored a little darkness to her.

“There….” Her hands left him, the gauze secured into place around his chest. “I’m done.”

He twisted hallways, catching hold of her hand. “Thank you.” She merely nodded, leaving the conversation up to Lotor to continue. He cast about the room, trying to think of what to say to her. “Allura…” His eyes landed on his computer, blinking a signal of new messages. “Come with me.”

“Where?” She wanted to know.

“Not far.” He was standing, an idea having taken root in his mind.

“All right.” Allura said, easing off the divan. With a mysterious smile, Lotor guided her across the room, urging her to sit before his computer console. He leaned into the back of her chair, arms reaching around her so that his fingers touched the key pad.

Allura watched carefully, but Lotor had no fear of her memorizing his log in information. There was simply no way for her to read it, encoded in an ancient Drule dialect that had formed the basis for the language as it was known today. The computer beeped, confirming what he had typed, the black screen melting away to greet them with Allura’s smiling face.

He glanced at the princess, seeing her raise eyebrows at the sight of his screensaver, but other than that there was no reaction. No matter, Lotor knew his next move was guaranteed to get one, the prince typing a number he was all to familiar with. More beeps and hums from the console, the call being put through. The screensaver was replaced with a picture of a shield, a house crest that had golden lions in their corners.

Allura drew in a sharp intake of breath, staring at the screen as a voice intoned, “One moment please.”

“Lotor….what are you doing?” Her question was a whisper, her eyes frozen to the monitor. “What is this?”

“What does it look like?” He teased, his face to the side of hers, lips brushing her ear. She didn’t seem to notice, too caught up in her shock.

Before she could answer, the crest faded away, a pale faced human appearing on the screen. His eyes widened as he did a double take, his hand snapping automatically to his forehead as he saluted the royal pair. “Princess Allura!” A second’s hesitation before he acknowledge Lotor. “Prince Lotor!”

To the back of him the command center of Castle Arus could be seen, the proceedings coming to a halt as the people stopped and stared. They were elated to see their princess, even if their joy was somewhat soured to see the Prince of Doom hanging over her. Lotor couldn’t resist smirking, keeping his arms around Allura though he had no reason to touch the keypad any longer.

“Tyras.” Allura said, Lotor not surprised she knew her people by name. “Please…is Coran there? I’d…” A glance at Lotor who gave a quick nod. “I’d like to speak to him.”

“Yes, at once Princess Allura!” Tyras said, fingers flying over his key pad. “He’s in the conference room.”

“The conference room?” Allura frowned, and Tyras hastened to explain.

“There’s been an emergency meeting called between all the rulers on Arus.”

Allura’s brow drew together in worry, Lotor whispering in her ear. “They probably called it upon receiving an electronic copy of the treaty. You needn’t worry so.”

“How can I not…” Allura sighed, hiding her impatience well as they waited to be transferred.

Soon the call was connected, the command center fading away as a room with a large oak table was seen. Coran stood up, a play of emotions creeping over his face. He was very happy to see Allura, but most displeased at the circumstances that led to her calling home. His eyes narrowed as he looked at Lotor, mouth opening to speak. But before he could, he was pushed to the side, the anxious face of the woman Lotor recalled grabbing in the forest, replacing Coran’s.

“Princess!!” Her heavy accent mangled the word, her eyes filling with tears as the woman began to blubber and moan about her baby’s safety.

“Nanny!” Allura cried, a smile on her face, though her own eyes looked a little wet.

“How are you doing?!” The woman asked, dabbing at her eyes with the edge of her apron. “Is that fiend treating you all right?”

“That fiend has a name.” Lotor muttered, and the woman looked at him, eyes narrowed.

“You get away from Allura right now!” Nanny demanded, a hand raised as she shook her finger at the screen. “And forget about this nonsense of her marrying you! You’re to release her at once!”

“Is she always this bossy?” Lotor asked, amused. Allura didn’t bother to respond, though her lips twitched slightly as she gazed at her nanny. The woman’s mouth fell open in shock, Lotor not bothering at all to be quiet as he spoke. But before she could get out an indignant reply, she was pushed out of the way by three very anxious males.

“Allura!” They chorused as one, and her smile grew bigger.

“Lance! Pidge! Hunk!” The warmth and happiness of her expression actually made Lotor see green. He didn’t like that those three fools could inspire such feelings in his beloved princess’ heart.

“Hang in there princess!” The brown haired youth said. “We’ll find a way to save you from Lotor!”

“Yeah!” The small one with glasses agreed, then bent out of view of the screen. When he straightened up, he was covered in mice, two perched on the top of his head, while another two sat situated on his shoulders. They squealed and chattered excitedly at Allura, their eyes wide and shining with happiness.

Allura gave an honest to goodness giggle at seeing the tiny creatures, clasping her hands together before her as though she would contain her glee. The fattest of the men smiled at her. “It’s good to hear your laugh princess. Things haven’t been the same without you around.”

“Hunk….I’ve missed you. Missed you all.” Allura said, and then frowned. “Where’s Keith?” The three youths exchanged glances, and then disappeared from view. A heated conversation was heard, the sound of a struggle and then Keith appeared on the screen, eyes angry as he looked at Lotor. He all but ignored the princess in favor of speaking to the prince, Keith’s voice low with barely contained fury.

“Lotor. You haven’t won, not by a long shot.”

“Oh?” He asked, amused. “From where I stand, it certainly looks like I’ve won. I have the beautiful princess Allura as my bride to be, Arus is to be annexed into the Doom Empire. Even Voltron is at my beck and call. So tell me, captain, just what gives you the idea that I am anything but the victor in our long standing feud?”

“You still have to get her to the altar.” Keith retorted, a tick in his jaw. “A lot could happen between now and then!”

“Indeed.” Lotor said, voice so cold icicles formed around the edges of it. “You’re welcome to try and stop the wedding captain. But I’m afraid you’ll have to do it without the assistance of Voltron. Haven’t you heard? You’re to return to Garrison at once.”

“You won’t get rid of me that easily!” Keith said, hands curling into fists. “You may have control over Arus, but you don’t have control over me!”

“Keith!” hissed Coran from off screen.

“No let him talk!” urged Red Lion’s pilot.

“Then you will be declared a trespasser on Arus soil.” Lotor sneered. “I’ll have you arrested immediately, thrown into the dungeons!”

“Lotor no!” Allura protested, turning to look at him, her eyes alarmed.

“It’s his choice Allura.” Lotor pointed out. “He can either return to Garrison a free man, or spend his days rotting in a jail cell somewhere.” Keith bristled in the background, seeming to grow agitated every time Lotor spoke to Allura. His eyes twinkled, Lotor thinking to push the captain over the edge. “Allura…” He said seductively, reaching a hand to touch her face.

His fingers barely made contact with her skin, and already Keith was shouting. “Keep your paws off of the princess!” He stepped forward as though his intent was to leap through the monitor and pummel Lotor.

The prince wanted to laugh, delighted by the captain’s reaction, his fingers continuing to stroke Allura’s cheek. “Careful captain, your blood pressure is rising.”

“Keith calm down.” Allura begged quietly, blue eyes pleading with him.

“I…I’m sorry Allura.” Keith said, then turned his back to the monitor. “I just can’t stand seeing him gloat.” Lotor snickered, knowing he was doing more than gloating. “Don’t worry….I won’t let you marry that monster.”

“It’s over Captain. Accept it.” Lotor said, and was pressing forward, disconnecting the transmission. Allura immediately tried to jerk away from him, Lotor grabbing her by the shoulders, forcing her to remain seated.

“And just what was the point of that little debacle?” She demanded, turning to glare at him over her shoulder.

“Believe it or not, I thought calling home would make you happy.” Lotor sighed, still holding onto her. “I didn’t expect the former captain of Voltron to be so…combative.”

“He was only that way cause you goaded him into it!” Allura snapped.

“No, you’re wrong.” Lotor said. “You saw him, he was spoiling for a fight. He needed a target for his anger, I just happened to be convenient.”

“Right….convenient.” Allura sneered.

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you Allura.” Lotor told her, and stepped away from her chair. As much fun as it had been to upset the captain, Lotor was truly sorry Allura’s reunion with her friends hadn’t gone better. He had meant to give her a gift, a show of his generosity in allowing her to talk with them. Instead of being grateful, she was angry, words peevish as she spoke to him.

“Can…” He watched her compose herself, trying to stuff down her anger. “Can I call home again soon?” She managed to sound hopeful, turning to look at him now.

“Yes, perhaps.” Came his answer.

“When?” She wanted to know.

“In a day or two.” Lotor finally said. “After they’ve had time to adjust to the information in the treaty.”

She let out a breath of air, a deep sigh of relief, her eyes closing briefly. “Thank you Lotor.”

He nodded, just as a knock sounded on the door. “Prince Lotor?” came the muffled voice, Lotor walking towards it. The metal whooshed open, revealing one of Zarkon’s private guards, the man dressed in bronze armor. “Prince Lotor, sir!” A salute then, the man standing at rigid attention.

“At ease.” Lotor said, the solider relaxing only slightly.

“Your father bids you to come see him at once.” Announced the soldier.

Lotor sighed. “Very well.” He went to retrieve his shirt, slipping it on over his bandage. “I won’t be long.” He promised Allura, who merely nodded at him. The soldier was practically vibrating with impatience, eager to lead Lotor to the king. Lotor wondered what the old blowhard wanted, reasoning to himself he probably found something to bitch about in the treaty.

At least he was led to his father’s private chambers rather than the throne room, Lotor relieved to know he wouldn’t get a public dressing down. The soldier opened the door, gesturing for Lotor to enter. The prince did so, looking around with interest. He hadn’t been in his father’s private quarters in years, not since he was a lad of ten. He could remember the last time all too vividly, Zarkon setting him on his knee, telling him it was time for him to attend the Drule military academy.

“Father?” Lotor called out, and a chair swiveled around, revealing Zarkon’s tall frame. In his lap sat a sheaf of papers, bearing an official seal.

“You let that bride of yours cloud your judgment.” Zarkon commented, tossing the document onto the table. “I can’t quite tell….are we the conquerors, or the conquered?” He shook his head, chair creaking as he leaned back. “I wanted to make an example of Arus. After the years of trouble they caused me, the loss of face before our peers, and instead I find you coddling them!”

“We’ve negotiated worse deals in the past.” Lotor said defensively. “And for planets that proved more troublesome than Arus. Demos comes to mind.”

“I distinctly recall us being made a laughing stock of the Drule Empire for the Demos incident.” Zarkon said, a scowl on his face.

“Ah, but this time we have Voltron.” Lotor was quick to reply. “No one would dare laugh at us so long as we control that robot.”

“True.” Zarkon gave a slight nod of his head. “Your bride may have been able to limit our usage of the weapon, but she failed to think of one thing.” A smile then, all fangs as he grinned. “She never forbade us manufacturing copies of Voltron.” A laugh then, one Lotor dutifully mimicked. “Think of it Lotor, an army of Voltrons, all at our beck and command!”

“It will take time to build an army of them.” Lotor pointed out when the laughter subsided.

“Aye. It may be well beyond my lifetime to see. But for you….and your heirs, it is possible.” Zarkon looked very pleased indeed. “Somehow you managed to insure the family legacy will flourish, our name handed down through time as Doom prospers and expands. With an army of Voltrons we will be an unstoppable force!”

“Yes father.” Lotor said, thinking it had been a long time since he had seen his father look so happy.

“You’ve done very well indeed.” Zarkon said, coming close to praising Lotor. “I think a reward is in order.”

“I have all the reward I could ever want.” Lotor said, thinking of Allura.

“Ah, don’t be so hasty my son.” Zarkon grinned. “You haven’t even heard what it is.” He flipped open the arm rest, revealing a panel set with a multitude of buttons. His clawed finger tapped out a sequence, an image of Arus appearing. Lotor raised a brow, confused by the display.

“I give this to you.” Zarkon said, keen eyes watching Lotor for his reaction. “To mold this planet in Doom’s image. You are to depart for Arus after the wedding, with your bride of course.” Zarkon added slyly. “Call it a…..working honeymoon.”

“But what about Planet Pollux?” Lotor wanted to know. “What about the other planets we are in the midst of trying to capture?”

“Leave those in the hands of your commanders.” Zarkon said. “I’m giving you some much needed time off. You can get to work on making me grandchildren.”

Lotor hid a frown, not sure he wanted to share Allura with children anytime soon. But to Zarkon he smiled, nodding his head. “Yes, father. Thank you for your generous gifts.”

“I’m sure you’re eager to get back to your bride to be.” Zarkon said, intent on dismissing Lotor from the room. “Be sure to bring her around later. Let her see some of the sights Castle Doom has to offer.” An evil smirk then, Zarkon barely containing his laughter. “I’m sure it’ll make her all the more grateful to return to Arus.” Zarkon winked at Lotor, the prince realizing this was Zarkon’s own attempt to help Lotor with his courtship of the princess.

“Yes father.” Lotor dropped into a bow, Zarkon giving a negligent wave of his hand. Soon Lotor was back in the hall, a frown on his face as he made his way back to his chambers. He wasn’t eager to return Allura to Arus, even with the two of them tied together by marriage. He much rather they remain here on Doom, thinking to keep her isolated from friends and family, and wear her resistance down as he courted her.

~I’ll just have to work harder.~ Lotor thought to himself. ~She’s bound to be unable to resist me for much longer.~ If only he felt as confidant as those words would leave one to believe…..


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