The room was cold, a chill breeze being circulated through out over head vents, keeping the room at a frosty fifty degrees. The temperature was a controlled thing, meant to keep the bodies from spoiling as they lay out on metal slabs, arms crossed over their chests. There hadn’t been time yet to see to them properly, the morgue’s shelves laying open and waiting for the bodies to be deposited inside.
Allura stood a few feet ahead of him, her arms crossed over her chest, her hands rubbing at her arms to chase away the chill she surely felt. She was quiet as she stared at the bodies, her face hidden from Lotor as she inched closer to them. Lotor himself, stood just before the closed door, as silent as his wife, just watching her.
She was paler than when they had entered the room, as though the shock of seeing what he had done had stolen away her color. She hadn’t yet resorted to crying, Lotor unsure over whether or not that was a good thing. He had been prepared for her tears, prepared for anger and insults, but this silence unsettled him. It was different from the quiet she had displayed when they first entered the ship, Allura peering around at the sight of panicked Drule soldiers, his men running about trying to salvage what they could from the explosions.
Back then she had been but a shadow besides him, watching it all, Lotor insisting on speaking basic with his men so that she could understand what was going on. No one questioned her presence aboard the flag ship, though Lotor knew word would be sent to his father that both he and his bride had arrived to inspect the damage. Lotor was already thinking on who to cast blame on for this attack, knowing there was plenty of people and factions to choose from.
“It’s strange…” Allura’s voice broke the quiet of the room, the princess standing before one of the slabs. She stared down at the body, looking it over for signs of what caused it’s death.
“What is?” Lotor asked, not moving from his spot by the door.
“I thought it would be different…” She answered. “I thought…well, that it’d be more messy. That they wouldn’t look so peaceful in death.”
“Just because they had to die, doesn’t mean their deaths need be violent.” Lotor explained. “A quick shot of killing lasers would have them passing on before they even knew what had happened.” She said nothing to that, and Lotor sighed. “Did you think I would be cruel? That I would torture and maim them before death?”
“I honestly don’t know.” Allura told him, squaring her shoulders. “After what I’ve seen you do, this seems almost tame in comparison. Almost.”
“Ah. Are you disappointed?” Lotor asked, more curious than snide.
“Disappointed?” Now she drew her eyes away from the bodies, turning to look at him confused.
“That I didn’t kill them in a more violent way?” He could see Allura didn’t like that, her eyes narrowing in anger. He didn’t give her a chance to speak, continuing. “It would be easier for you to continue to hate me if I had. But you’d be wrong about me. I don’t kill because I like to, I kill because I have too.”
“No one should have to kill anyone.” She retorted, and Lotor shook his head no. “They shouldn’t!”
“There are many reasons why certain people have to die, I’ve gone over them with you numerous times.” Lotor said, his expression showing how weary he was of that particular subject. “These men presented a danger to Arus, to the galaxy with the knowledge they had obtained.”
“It was a knowledge they had been ordered to gather, under orders by you and your father!” Allura pointed out, lowering her hands to her sides.
“And gather they did, without thought to whether it was the right or wrong thing to do.” Lotor calmly replied. “They made the choice to do this, to study the lions. They knew what my father, what Doom would use their findings for. They jumped at the chance to be of use to their kingdom.”
“And others will come…” Allura said sadly. “Will they have to die as well?”
Now he shrugged, unsure. “If they get close to discovering the secrets of the lions, then most likely yes. I can try to divert their attention towards other projects, but it will be difficult with my father jumping down my throat over his desire for his own Voltron to use.”
“And I suppose I am just supposed to get used to the killing. To turn a blind eye to the fact that these men and women will be murdered?!” Allura demanded.
“More will die if my father gets his army of Voltron.” Lotor told her. “Allura, my father will not only take over the galaxy, killing and enslaving millions, but most likely he will slaughter those that worked on the Voltron project in order to keep this knowledge exclusive to Doom.” He saw her eyes widen at that, Lotor nodding emphatically. “It’s the truth. I know how my father’s mind works.”
“So you’re telling me either option leads to death…” She was clearly dismayed, enough that it moved Lotor to step towards her. Allura looked up at him as he approached, holding herself stiffly as though to prevent herself from reaching out to him. “Won’t your father be suspicious of their deaths?”
“He most likely will.” Lotor nodded. “But I’ve already put thought towards who to blame for this.”
“I suppose the easiest way would be to say some remnant of the rebel faction on Arus survived long enough to sneak onboard the ship and do this damage.” Lotor said casually. “Or it could be blamed on your cousin Romelle. She and Sven are known for their terrorist activity against the Doom Empire.”
“Lotor no!” Allura quickly protested, shaking her head no. “If you cast the blame on my cousin, Pollux will surely suffer. Your father may order you to go there personally to capture the planet!”
“That most likely would be the outcome.” Lotor agreed. “Of course, there is a third option. One that my father would find just as believable.”
“What is it?” Allura asked, looking as though she braced herself for the worst.
“Keith.” Just a saying of his name had the princess gasping, Allura staring at him horrified. “He’s already a wanted man Allura. For past crimes against the Doom Empire. He’s already been proven to be on this planet in recent days, how long we don’t know for certain. But surely he’s had ample time to do this.”
“But Zarkon would kill him!” Allura cried out, her hands together, wrenching at her fingers.
“He can try.” Lotor agreed. “But the captain has the backing of Garrison to protect him.”
“Please…the first option. Blame it on the rebels here on Arus…” Allura said, eyes turning begging.
“Are you sure about that Allura?” Lotor asked, seeing her nod her head yes. “Innocents will die. My father will demand we bring someone to justice. And since the rebel scum has already been executed, I’d be forced to grab a scapegoat off the streets. Some poor sap who would be painted to be the culprit. My father would surely kill him or her.”
He could see the frustration in her eyes at hearing that, Allura fitfully shaking her head no. “You see the captain is really the best option if you want no one else to suffer needlessly for what has been done.”
“Damn you.” She said softly, Lotor straining to hear her curse. “You planned it this way from the start, didn’t you?”
“No, Allura, I did not set out with the goal of increasing the bounty on captain Keith’s head.” Lotor sighed. “I did all this to make amends to you, it is just unfortunate that someone else be involved in order to cast blame off of me.”
She looked close to tears, Lotor reaching out with his hand to touch her face. Allura flinched at his touch, but tolerated his fingers caressing her cheek. “So sad…” He said softly. “You didn’t cry for the scientists, but you’ll cry for Keith?”
“He’s my friend Lotor.” She pointed out. “I don’t like the thought of him being put in any more danger.”
“One would say the captain lives for the danger.” Lotor said. His lips twitched, Lotor fighting not to smile. “It is something we both have in common.”
“Yes, you both thrive on it.” Agreed Allura.
“Yes, I suppose we do.” Lotor replied. “Come Allura…” He dropped his hand down to her side, catching at her wrist. “We really should move on. People will get suspicious if we linger too long in the morgue.”
She nodded, her free hand raising to wipe at the tears that were threatening to fall. Lotor turned, leading her out of the room and into the ship’s corridor. Several Drules were out there waiting, their eyes noting the saddened state Allura was in. It left Lotor relieved for the witnesses, knowing reports would circulate that the princess had been seen crying over the scientists’ deaths. Any and all suspicions that she had had a hand in this would be alleviated, the people knowing she was too kind hearted to kill in cold blood.
“Status report.” Lotor demanded, already walking down the corridor, the soldiers hurrying to keep up with him. Allura trailed behind him, her small hand clasped by his larger one.
“All the fires have been put out, and we are sorting through the remains.” Said one, the man radiating nervousness as he spoke.
“It’s bad.” Continued the other, not flinching when Lotor looked at him. “The computer memory banks have been completely destroyed, the towers ruined in the explosions. All our computers are down, we can’t even load the flight programs to get the ships airborne.”
“I see.” Lotor put on a show of appearing disgruntled, his frown deep as he narrowed his eyes. Anger sparked in them, Lotor all but growling out his next question. “And just how long before we can get the most basic of programs working again?”
“It’ll take weeks.” Came the answer. “New towers must be installed, the computers rebuilt from scratch. There is little that can be salvageable from what remains.”
“I want the ships up and running in days, not weeks.” Ordered Lotor, seeing how agitated his words made the soldiers.
“Days? But sire! That’s impossible!”
“Make it possible.” Lotor said curtly, and gave a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Go, relay my orders. Find the technicians and have them start work immediately. And have a faction of them work on seeing if they can’t recover something of the scientist’s work.”
“Prince Lotor, I fear that is impossible.” The nervous solider spoke up. One angry look from Lotor had him hastily amending his words, the man bobbing his head up and down in agreement. “All right sire, I will see to it personally.”
“See that you do.” Lotor said, watching as the two soldiers turned down a fork in the pathway, running off to relay his orders to the ship’s technicians.
“What was the point of all that?” Allura whispered, when they were alone once more. “Why even ask them to try and recover the findings on the lions?”
“Allura. I have to make a show of being upset by all this.” Lotor explained. “To do otherwise would be suspicious. I have to appear desperate to recover the scientist’s data, or else my father may cast his suspicions on me.”
“Would that be so bad?” She wondered out loud. He came to an abrupt halt at her question, Allura bumping into his back. “Lotor?” She asked, the prince turning slowly to fix her with an intense stare.
“Allura, what do you think my father would do to me if he learned I was responsible for all this?”
“Well…” She frowned, thinking about it. “I’m sure he would be displeased.” He couldn’t help himself, Lotor let out a short bark of laughter, seeing Allura troubled to hear it. “But you’re his son! Surely he wouldn’t do anything to cause lasting harm to his only heir!”
“Then you really don’t know my father.” Lotor retorted. “Allura, I see you still don’t understand. I committed high treason for you. Destroying this data won’t earn me a mere slap on the wrist. I’ll be lucky if all my father does is kill me.” Again that startled expression, blue eyes wide and bright with dismay. “Allura, my father cares nothing for me, he only wants more power and slaves. Voltron can give that to him, in a quicker and more efficient manner. He’ll be beyond livid over the setback, and I shudder to think what he will do.”
She was staring, looking as though she was finally coming to realize just how extreme a thing he had done for her. “He’d probably go after you to make me hurt before I die.” Lotor continued, merciless as he strove to make her understand there was no going back for what he had done.
“After me?” She squeaked out, Lotor nodding in agreement.
“Yes.” Lotor sighed. “He knows I care for you. If he believed in love, he’d know I love you, and he’d want to destroy that love, destroy the very person I did all this for.” He kept quiet about just the sort of things Zarkon would do to Allura, Lotor fearing his father might take Allura and try to make a heir with her to replace Lotor. “He can never know, can never find out what has been done.”
“Yes.” She breathed out her agreement, Allura nodding her head. “I’m sorry…” A hand was raised to her face, Allura covering her eyes briefly. “It just hit me, the magnitude of what has been done. It extends beyond killing people…” Lotor took her words as a hopeful sign, thinking she was one step closer to forgiving him. “Lotor, in your own way, you’ve saved lives by doing this. I can’t say I like your methods, but I appreciate the sacrifice you have made.”
“Thank you Allura.” Lotor said, gazing into her eyes a moment longer before turning and leading the way through the ship. They were both quiet as they passed through the halls, each lost in their own thoughts as they moved. It was all right with Lotor, this silence, the prince noting that the closer they got to the ship’s hanger bay, the more people there was running about the place.
Commander Merack was waiting for him at tge bay’s entrance, hurrying over the moment he spotted the royal couple. “Prince Lotor, there you are!”
“Hello commander.” Greeted Lotor, coming to a stop as the Drule approached him.
“You shut off your com unit.” Frowned Merack, a hand on his hip as he looked at Lotor. “I’ve been trying to contact you for little over an hour!”
“Ah, forgive me.” Lotor said, a tad sheepishly. “I must have accidentally pushed the wrong button on my communicator.”
“Really?” A doubting look from Merack, Lotor’s expression blank as he gazed back at his commander.
“Truly.” Lotor insisted. “We’ve been surveying the damage up close. It’s terrible how far it extends.”
“Yes.” Agreed Merack. Nasty business, whoever did this knew what they were doing.”
“Indeed.” Lotor said, then asked, “You were looking for me commander? What for?”
“Ah yes….your father has already heard the news, and is demanding you speak to him.” Merack said. “His impatience has been growing by the minute as I searched for you.”
“I better take his call then.” Lotor sighed, turning to Allura. “Will you excuse me, Allura?”
“Yes, of course.” She nodded, and Lotor flashed a small smile at her.
‘Thank you.” He said, raising her hand to his lips. She was impassive as he brushed a kiss across her knuckles, but did not pull away from the gesture. “I’ll see you later.” He added, letting go of her.
“Princess, can you make your way off the ship, or should I escort you?” Merack asked, and Allura shook her head no.
“I’m fine on my own.” She assured them both. With a tiny wave of her hand, she was moving, disappearing amidst the crowd of hurrying Drules. Lotor didn’t pause to watch her go, looking instead towards Merack.
“We have a portable communication device set up onboard.” Merack said, leading Lotor towards a cluster of Drules that stood before a metal object, obscuring Lotor’s view of the item. “It’s signal is weak, but it’s adequate given the circumstances.”
“I see.” Lotor replied, watching as the Drules noticed his approach, parting to allow him a clear view of the small view screen. It sat propped up on a metal box, wires looping out of it, curling to connect the two objects together. A Drule technician stood with a key pad in hand, fingers flying over the button as she worked to strengthen the signal. Zarkon’s face could be seen on the monitor, the king looking impatient as he tapped his claws on the arm rest of his throne.
The screen itself was static filled, lacking color as it presented a blurred picture of the ruler of the Doom Empire. Zarkon himself noticed Lotor’s approach, his eyes narrowing in anger as he growled out a greeting.
“Hello father.” Lotor said, holding back his sighs as he bowed his head in the direction of the monitor.
“Lotor! What do you have to say for yourself?” Zarkon demanded with a hiss.
“It’s good to see you too.” Quipped Lotor, then took on a more serious tone. “It’s bad father. The computers were hit hard. My men report that there is little to be saved in the wreckage.”
“How could this happen?” Zarkon gritted his teeth together, glaring at Lotor. “How could YOU let this happen.”
“It’s not my fault.” Lotor protested. “It’s the work of saboteurs. They knew what they were doing when they attacked our ships.”
“It can’t be those terrorists on Arus. Even if some remained, the Arusians are too stupid to come up with a virus that could destroy our data banks.” Zarkon snarled. “It had to be someone else…”
“I have a person in mind.” Lotor said, seeing Zarkon’s eyes darken with interest.
“It’s someone who was recently seen on the planet.” Continued the prince. “Someone who has caused us trouble in the past, and been a thorn in our side for years.”
“Just cut to the chase and give me a name!” ordered Zarkon.
“It’s that captain of the Voltron force.” Lotor answered, then hurried to correct himself. “Or I should say former captain. Keith has the motive and the means to do what was done.”
“Keith.” Zarkon hissed his name, his hands making fists. “That troublesome human! I knew it was wrong to let those sniveling Voltron Force members go when we had them in our grasp. I just didn’t think any of them would come to make us regret allowing them to live this soon.”
“Neither did I father.” Lotor did not have to feign the tiredness in his voice, inwardly cursing Keith for his interference in his marriage to Allura.
“Well, it’s an insult I won’t allow to go unpunished!” Zarkon exclaimed heatedly. “I want that man found and killed!”
“That will be a little difficult father.” Lotor said, seeing the king snort.
“And why is that?”
“Because he has the backing of Galaxy Garrison.” Lotor explained. “They won’t hand him over to you, just so you can kill him. You’ll have a fight on your hands.”
“If they want a war, I’ll bring a war to their very doorstep!” Zarkon all but shouted, Lotor hurrying to appease him.
“Calm down father.” Lotor said, raising his hands in supplication as Zarkon rallied himself for another shout. “I’ll increase the bounty on the captain’s head. Surely the best hunters in the galaxy will take him down for you.”
“They better.” Zarkon groused, leaning back in his seat. “Do you know how much time he has set us back with his antics?” Zarkon pounded his fists on his throne, voice raising to scream. “We’ve lost almost a month of research, and he’s pretty much set us back to square one with his sabotage. Did any of the scientists survive the massacre?”
“No father, not a one.” Lotor said, seeing Zarkon purse his lips together angrily.
“That’s bad. You’ll have to remain on Arus to oversee the new group of scientists I intend to send your way.” Zarkon said. “You may be stuck on Arus for months, even years if this keeps up.” That was fine by Lotor, the prince fighting not to smile at the news. “You’ll have to be extra vigilant.” Continued the king. “Set up more men onboard the ships.”
“Of course father.” Lotor agreed. “It will take time for us to replace the damage computers.”
The news actually made his father curse, a vile Drule word escaping his lips. “More time lost thanks to that human.” Sneered the king. “I can’t wait to get my hands on him. Send out word that the bounty will be tripled if he is brought to me alive.”
“Yes, father.” Lotor agreed, wondering how Keith would fare against the Denubian Galaxy’s many bounty hunters. Why at the price Zarkon was offering, hunters would come from the next galaxy over just to try for the money!
“I’ll leave you to it.” Zarkon said. “You have much work to do, try not to delay things too much by dallying with that bride of yours.”
“Trust me when I say that won’t be an issue.” Lotor sighed, knowing he still had a long way to go before Allura forgave him.
“Don’t tell me you are having problems already?” Zarkon asked, and Lotor shrugged.
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Right.” Zarkon shook his head. “You don’t look or sound as confidant as you normally are. You must have screwed up big time with her.”
“I’m working on measures to fix things.” Lotor snapped, seeing his father smirk at him. “It’s none of your concern.” Added Lotor, and gave a wave of his hand. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be going.”
“Fine.” Zarkon nodded, and with a gesture from him, the screen went dead. Lotor sighed, staring at it for a moment longer.
“Do you really think it was the former captain of the Voltron Force that is behind the fleet’s sabotage?” Merack’s voice jarred Lotor out of his private thoughts, the prince turning to look at his commander.
“Yes, I do.”
“I should have tried harder to find him.” Merack said, hanging his head low. “I failed you.”
“Do not think that.” Lotor said, clasping a hand on the commander’s shoulder. “You tried your best.”
“My best wasn’t good enough in this situation!” flared Merack angrily.
“Trust me when I say I understand what you are feeling.” Lotor assured him. “I’ve had plenty of time these past two years to taste defeat at Keith’s hands. It’s unpleasant, but it’ll leave you hardened, and determined to beat him.” A small smile then, Lotor offering these parting words to Merack. “The captain may have won this battle, but he is far from winning the war.”