Freedom 49

The room was awash in a soft glow of color, a flickering blue light that pulsated to the beat of a sound. That noise was loud, pitched high enough to rattle one’s nerves, repeating over and over again with a sense of urgency. That insistent beeping is what roused her, Allura frowning as she opened her eyes. The flashing lights dazzled her eyes, the princess bringing a hand to her face as she tried to block out the lights.

Through the split of her fingers, she spotted the gray metal box sitting on the night stand situated next to her bed. Allura had to slide her way over to Lotor’s side of the bed, the spot empty and cold from the lack of his presence. She tried not to think on how lonely it was sleeping in such a big bed, it’s size clearly built to comfortably seat two. Instead Allura hit the alarm, glaring bleary eyed at the chrono meter that flashed the time as drawing near to four in the morning.

Almost immediately the light started flashing again, Allura not quite cursing as she reached for her robe, pale pink silk that covered her all the way down past her knees. “I’m coming, I’m coming…” She muttered to herself, slipping her legs over the side of the bed. She didn’t even pause to retrieve her slippers, padding barefoot into the living quarters that were attached to the bedroom.

A view screen was set up in the corner, a recent acquisition that looked out of place amongst the inviting furniture of the outer chamber. Her parents had never been ones to take calls in their quarters, choosing to shut out the outside world once they retired to these rooms. But necessity had forced her hand, Allura insisting a universal communication device be installed in her new living quarters, perfect for private, late night communications.

She only wished there hadn’t been a need to take a call this late at night, Allura reaching for the remote that controlled the view screen. A press of a few buttons, and the screen flickered, going from a rainstorm of static to showing a bright cheery face. Allura tried not to grumble in the face of the boy’s enthusiasm, crossing her arms over her chest as she nodded in his direction.

“Hello Pidge.”

“Princess, hi.” The bespectacled boy said, Allura studying the background of Pidge’s surroundings. The green clad youth was in some sort of garage, she could see the remains of a small hovercraft spilled out onto the floor, just waiting to be reassembled. Wires hung haphazardly down from the ceiling, a few of them sending off stray sparks that sizzled as they fell.

Pidge himself was in an excited state, his hair messy as it stood in all directions. He bore oil stains on his hands, his shirt dirty from where he absentmindedly rubbed his wet fingers on. “I know it’s late on Arus but you did say to call you as soon as I had the findings…”

“Yes, Pidge, it’s all right.” Assured Allura knowing it was far earlier on planet Earth. “What can you tell me about that virus I sent you?”

“It’s powerful.” Pidge said, gesturing animatedly with his hand. “It ruined three of my computers before I was able to successfully run an analysis on it.”

“Ah….I’m sorry about that.” She was sheepish, offering a quick solution to his immediate problem. “I’ll reimburse you for the computer parts though I know money can’t replace any data that was on them.”

“Don’t worry about it Princess.” Pidge soothed her. “It was mainly computers used for gaming and testing out new programs. I didn’t lose anything too important except for a few high scores.” A chuckle then, Pidge not losing any of his enthusiasm. “I’m more interested in this virus you sent me and where you got it from!”

“I’ve already told you Pidge, that information is classified.” She told him, holding back a tired sigh.

“Yeah I know. And we both know I can’t help but think you got it from your husband.” Pidge retorted. “The question is what’s he doing with a virus this powerful, and why hasn’t he used it beforehand?”

“That I can’t answer.” Allura said, refusing to commit to an admittance that Lotor was involved with this. But inwardly she too wondered why Lotor had held back on using such a powerful weapon, Allura shuddering at the thought of the virus being unleashed on Voltron’s computer.

“There’s been some rumors here at Garrison.” Pidge continued, tone conversational. “Word has it that the Doom ships on Arus have suffered some kind of set back…” A questioning look in his eyes, the boy watching her carefully. “Could this virus have something to do with it?”

“Pidge…” A warning in her voice, Allura remaining tightlipped in response to his inquiry.

“Just wondering out loud.” Pidge said hastily. “Considering the strength of this virus, it wouldn’t surprise me if the creator of it accidentally lost control of it. It’d be an awful mess to clean up if it was left to run havoc on a ship’s computer.”

“Can it be cleaned up?” Allura asked, trying to steer the conversation back towards a topic she felt more comfortable discussing.

“So far I’d have to say no.” A hint of frustration on his face, Pidge sighing. “I’ve tried my best princess, but so far all sign point to failure when I try to recover my damaged data. It appears once the virus runs it’s course, the contents within the computer’s memory banks are lost forever. Of course I haven’t had time to open up the hard casing, and dissect the computer from inside. But it doesn’t look very promising.”

She felt a small sense of relief, Allura not quite sighing as she thought of the damage that had been done to the Drule ships. It had been days since she had unleashed the virus at Lotor’s urgings, days since the virus had run rampant on board the ship’s electronics, ruining all data and programs. New computers had been bought, the Drules working fast under the stern gaze of her husband, hurrying to get the ships up and running once more.

“Princess?”

Allura blinked, realizing Pidge had been talking all this time. “Yes, Pidge, what is it?”

“I was just wondering…” Now he fidgeted, appearing nervous. “You have no use for this virus, yes?” At her nod he continued, practically blurting out the words in rapid succession. “Well…I was wondering if I could share it with Garrison. We could work to adapt it to our needs, a virus this powerful need not be wasted.”

She hesitated a moment, wondering what Lotor would think if she shared his virus with Garrison. She pictured his angry reaction and nearly flinched, even as another part of her grew smug. It would serve Lotor right if she did give away his newest toy, Allura thinking it was time for some payback for all Lotor had done. “Yes, Pidge.” She said at last, nodding her head. “Reveal it to Garrison. If it can be of use against Doom in some way, than I am more than happy to entrust it you.”

“Thanks princess!” Pidge said, sounding relieved at her agreement. “Who knows, we may even produce an antidote to this virus. A way to retrieve the information lost.”

“Just try not to damage Garrison’s mainframe computer.” Allura warned, no smile on her face for she was deadly serious. “One slip up, and you could set back Garrison by a few months or even a few years as they try to recover from the damage.”

“No kidding!” Pidge agreed, looking disturbed at the thought.

“Yeah….” She knew it was time to end the call, and yet Allura lingered before the screen, not yet ready to dismiss Pidge. “Tell me Pidge…how is Keith doing?”

“Keith? Ah….he’s still angry about being grounded on Earth. But with the bounty on his head tripled in cost, Garrison thinks it’s too risky to allow him to leave headquarters.”

“Poor Keith.” Allura said sympathetically, knowing how it must bother the captain to be unable to fly, and tend to his off world duties. A desk job would never suit him for long, paperwork would be the death of him long before any bounty hunters got their hands on Keith.

“I’m sure those bounty hunters will back off eventually.” Pidge added. “After all, they haven’t been able to kill him yet, and more than a few of those hunters have been put out of commission by Keith. Even with the price so high, they are bound to realize it’ll do them no good…” A nervous chuckle then, the boy adjusting his glasses. “After all, can’t spend money if you’re dead or in jail.”

“How true.” Allura agreed. But privately she had her doubts, fearing that one intrepid hunter would over look the dangers, sneak past Garrison’s defenses, and deal a killing blow to Keith.

“Boy but I tell you, he must have really pissed off Lotor for the bounty to get that high!” Pidge exclaimed. “But then….I guess that’s the price one pays when you interfere in the love life of the prince of Doom.”

“Yes…” Allura said softly, leaving Pidge to his speculations. She knew that Doom was trying to keep it quiet about the damages done to the fleet stationed on Arus. Just as Lotor worked hard to paint Keith the culprit behind the virus out break onboard the ship’s computers. Pidge had no way of knowing the real reason behind the bounty on Keith’s head, Zarkon beyond livid as he was led to believe Keith had forced his plans upside down. It was a sore subject for all involved, Allura feeling saddened and frustrated by Lotor’s actions. The prince was just as irritated with her, feeling she should be suitably impressed by all he had done, feigning a lack of understanding as to why she remained shocked and horrified by his actions.

“Listen….you’re tired…” Pidge had mistaken her untalkative nature as a sign of her sleepiness, the boy continuing. “I’ll let you go back to sleep.”

“Okay Pidge…” Allura nodded, forcing a smile on her face. “We’ll talk soon, okay?”

“Count on it.” Pidge said, an instant before his image wavered, screen shutting down to become grainy static once more. With a sigh, she switched off the monitor, pocketing the remote as she walked over to the love seat. She dropped down to it’s cushions in a less than graceful fashion, Allura bringing her hands to her face, covering it. She didn’t know what to do, finding she was too wide awake, too alert to retreat back to bed. And yet at the same time it was still too early to be up, most if not all the servants in bed, the castle quiet in these hours of rest.

She hated having this free time to herself, Allura having spent these last few days keeping herself busy with work around the castle. As long as she kept herself occupied with the pressing concerns of her people, she didn’t have to think about her own problems. About the way her marriage was falling apart, a chasm stretching wider and wider between her and her husband.

Lotor tried, he honestly did, but all his efforts were wasted on her. Allura felt wretched to rebuff him, but how could she do anything but, finding each of his attempts at reconciliation left her all the more horrified. She still felt the shock, the numbness that had gone through her when she learned he had killed again. The peaceful faces of the dead scientists haunted her dreams, mocking her with the knowledge that they would be only the first to die.

She hated bloodshed and destruction, absolutely despised it. And yet it seemed all Lotor was capable of, falling back on old habits in an attempt to rectify his mistakes.

Even worse was his anger, Lotor holding himself stiff with it whenever their paths crossed. Which wasn’t often, Allura endeavoring to avoid him at all costs. Lotor was just as cowardly as she, doing his best to remain apart from her. It left what little encounters they had awkward at best, the pair striving for a civil word and failing magnificently. Her tongue was always sharp around him, his tone acidic in response to her ire.

Allura couldn’t help her reactions to him, her temper flaring whenever she saw Lotor. It brought with it all her disappointments, her broken dreams and failed hopes, words spilling free before she could get control of them. Lotor held his own bitterness, she could see that, hear it in his voice whenever he talked to her. He never once mentioned the magnitude of what he had done for her, not since that day on his flag ship. But it lingered in the air, unspoken between them.

Treason. She turned the word over in her mind, the word a heavy weight of oppression on her shoulders. Allura understood that it was no light thing Lotor had done, the prince turning his back on his throne and his people in trying to make amends with her. He had risked a great deal in the destruction of the data on Voltron, Allura knowing he could pay with his life for this crime.

He had put everything on the line for a chance at happiness with her, a happiness she was unable to give him. At least not yet, Allura trying her hardest to reconcile herself to what had been done. It didn’t help that for every attempt at righting his wrongs, he tripped and faltered, making things worse than they already were. And it all started with a lie, a simple omission on his part, Lotor neglecting to tell her about his father’s plans for Voltron. It spiraled out of control, people being killed, that death and destruction needing a scapegoat. Lotor had been too eager to thrust Keith into that role, leaving her friend in danger of being killed, Allura wondering how Lotor could ever hope to rectify that transgression.

She thought of so many what ifs these days, thinking on how things could have been different. A what if Keith had never come snooping around, Allura finding she still held a spark of anger towards her old friend. It was dull, and faded around the edges, but it still smoldered when she thought of how Keith had turned her world upside down with his unwanted revelations.

But mainly she blamed herself, wondering how she could have missed something so obvious when forging the peace treaty with Doom. Allura tried to reassure herself that no one could think of everything, but still it pained her. She should have known Doom would be too eager to make use of her father’s invention one way or another. She should have thought to safeguard it better.

Allura knew things couldn’t continue the way they were going, the princess knowing Zarkon would push at Lotor to produce results. Lotor couldn’t keep killing scientists, couldn’t keep destroying data. Not if he didn’t want his father to grow suspicious. Sooner or later that clawed finger would end up pointing at Lotor, and her husband would be taken from her. Tortured and killed, leaving her a widow at Zarkon’s mercy.

Allura shivered at that thought, pulling her robe tighter around her. Lotor had told her as much, mercifully glossing over details of just what Zarkon would do to her. She could hazard a guess, remembering the instant before her reluctant walk down the aisle, Zarkon’s words hissing in her ear as he threatened her life. He would blame her for Lotor’s actions, she knew that, knowing the pleasure Zarkon would take in killing her for the problems she had caused him.

Was it Doom’s destiny to have a Voltron of it’s own? Was all her efforts, all her struggles merely delaying the inevitable? Allura did not know, the princess heaving a weary sigh as she thought of how unstoppable Doom would be with even one Volition at it’s disposal. Let alone an army of them!

Lotor didn’t care either way, she could tell that much at least, knowing the only concern a second Volition caused him was the effect it was having on his marriage. She remembered her accusations, telling him flat out he did those treasonous acts for the wrong reason. But was she being too hard on him? Was it wrong to expect more from him, when he tried his hardest to please? When he had let her know from the beginning that he was what he was, with little hope that marriage would change him?

Was she the one who had to change, was it even possible for her way of thinking to be transformed? Could she really turn a blind eye to Lotor and the Doom’s Empire conquering ways, sit back while everything she had fought against collapsed all around her? Or was there a way for her to turn adversity on it’s head, and make a compromise that could benefit not only her, but the galaxy as well?

Allura rose from her seat, beginning to pace anxiously. She believed that humans and Drules could live together in peace. Arus was slowly setting out to prove that, the first of the settlements built, with Drules bringing in money and resources to the planet. Her people would work over their fear, push back their anger as they saw first hand that Drules were capable of coexisting with them. If this could be done on Arus, why not elsewhere? Lotor always scoffed at the idea, but Allura wouldn’t let it go, turning over angles in her mind.

Perhaps if they offered the planets a choice, a decision between forceful conquest, or peaceful cohabitation, the planet’s rulers would choose the latter. After all, the Doom Empire’s legacy was known through out the galaxy, their strength and brutal tactics bedtime stories to scare children into behaving. If left with a choice of being killed, or living, wouldn’t the people choose life over death?

Perhaps the offer could be further sweetened with the extra Voltrons. Allura knew planets would jump at the chance to have the mighty robot as their protector. If with the Doom occupation came a Voltron for each planet, surely then the last of the resistance would fall.

Brow furrowed, she continued to walk the length of the room, wondering how Lotor would react to her thoughts. She knew Zarkon would probably laugh, the old king as blood thirsty as he was vicious. But Lotor was different, always telling her his people did what they did out of need, rather than desire to dominate others. The planet Doom was unable to sustain them, their race had spiraled out of control, growing at alarming numbers until a wealth of planets and their resources were needed to take care of them. If Lotor had truly been honest with her, he’s at least consider her proposal.

She nodded to herself, firm resolve in her eyes, ready to approach Lotor, not with anger but with hope in her heart. She was already moving towards the door, Allura not caring about the late hour. If she knew one thing, it was that she knew her husband’s sleep patterns, Lotor the type to rise early and go late to bed. It was something to do with his Drule heritage, the man not needing as much sleep as a human would.

She’d catch him most likely in his bedroom, she could picture him there, relaxed in a chair as he poured over documents. He’d be surprised at her arrival, but Allura hoped Lotor would see it as the first step towards bringing them together. She only hoped he’d be receptive to her, the princess pinning all her hopes on his reaction to her ideas.

The guards were startled when she pulled open the doors, whirling about to face her, their eyes anxiously scanning the room behind her. They visibly relaxed to see there was no apparent danger, dropping nervous bows to Allura. She nodded at them, hand gesturing for them to straighten, and let out a nervous breath. “Please….” Allura began, hands smoothing down the front of her robe. “Take me to my husband.”

———————————————————————

To Be Continued

With thanks to Scorpinac for the suggestion about planets getting their own Voltrons if they willingly join Doom, and Sora the star for the chats we had that got me thinking in the right direction. 🙂

—-Michelle


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