Freedom 51

The windows took up almost one whole wall, large panes of glass that were separated only by a length of thick marble, allowing an uninterrupted view of the city that lay nestled several stories downwards. From the high vantage point of the windows, the city was reduced to nothing more than faint outlines, a hazy mist seeming to surrounded the tops of the buildings.

It left the beauty of the city hidden, keeping one from seeing the short buildings made of strong steel, their walls white washed to soften the cold gray metal. Pale colors were chosen for the roofs, alternating color schemes that seemed random at first, but when viewed from above, projected a pretty pattern that was pleasing to the eye. The streets were paved, smooth cobble stone down every corner and alley, such was the wealth of this city that no roads fell into disrepair.

Few ships traveled the streets, the people choosing to navigate the city mainly on foot. It left the roads crowded with bodies, people mingling and going about their business with a kind of lazy care Lotor envied. Even now with Drules soldiers on every corner, the people kept their spirits up, wary but accepting of their fates. So different from other planets, so different from Arus in how the people of the planet Zaroovia behaved towards their alien conquerors.

Of course there had been resistance, the Zaroovians had fought bravely against the Doom Empire for many months. But slowly, inevitably, the invasion wore them down, withering away their defenses, stealing away their chances for victory. It had been months of hard work for the Doom Empire, but even now rumors persisted, whispering that the time of change came when the crown prince of Doom arrived with his fleet, lending his support to the Drule invasion.

Lotor himself smirked at the rumors, knowing that for all his pent up aggression, his fleet had merely been the final push that teetered the Zaroovians into total defeat. He sought not to claim fame for this campaign, knowing the real heroes of this war were those brave Drule commanders who had spent so many months fighting it out non stop.

He stayed standing at the window, gazing down at the city, watching as it’s twin suns slowly set, the colors of the sky brilliant oranges and purples. His mood this evening was reflective, Lotor thinking on all that had happened these last two months and a half. It felt like a lifetime ago, that early morning escape from Arus, his fleet taking to the sky in rapid ascension. On the outside he had been calm, expression cold as he sat in his commander’s chair, giving out orders that his men were quick to obey.

There had been excitement on board the Drule ships, his men eager to leave Arus behind them. For too long they had spent their time doing little more than patrols, occasionally breaking up small skirmishes in the towns. Even worse for some, were the men who had been on settlement detail, spending their days doing the back breaking work of slaves to build houses, plant crops, make a town out of nothing. No, there wasn’t many of his men who missed their time spent on Arus, the soldiers much preferring the action of battle to the peace of a planet settled.

Zaroovia was different from Arus, in more ways than one, it’s cities more high tech, it’s people self sufficient. It was a perfect planet for the Drules to settle on, with many fresh water lakes, and miles upon miles of farm land out in the country. To some the fact that there was no treaty made Zaroovia even better than Arus, the Drules feeling they were able to run wild on the planet. They were most disappointed when Lotor held them back, forcing them to behave towards the original citizens of the planet. Slaves were of course taken, the Drules making use of the peasant class, but the Zaroovian nobles were free to buy back their bodies, use their gold to maintain their freedom.

Things were settling down on Zaroovia, the people less and less likely to riot, accepting their fates with a resignation that surprised even Lotor. Their days were spent much like it had been before the Drules arrived, rising early, going about their jobs, then retiring for the night. It was right, it was happening, and it was all so boring!

Lotor sighed, hardly surprised at that last thought. It was one he had entertained often enough, Lotor thinking about how similar to previous campaigns this Zaroovian invasion was. Once the initial rush of excitement towards battle faded, and the people were subdued, everything fell into a familiar pattern. Lotor could guide his men in his sleep, finding everything was repeating, giving him no challenge to hold his interest. He was no oracle, but he could still predict how his day would go, knowing there was little to surprise him, even less to trouble him as the Zaroovians were not presenting him with any problems.

So different from Arus, where he had to be on constant vigilance, always having something to do, always having paper work to over look. He had had countless tasks to over see, Lotor feeling as though he was juggling many balls up in the air. He had had to work to appease both the Arusians and his own people the Drules, navigating the problems that came with trying to peacefully mingle the two races together. It was quite a challenge, one Lotor realized he had thrived on, even with the setbacks the resistance had offered him.

Back then he had felt annoyed at all the work he had had to do, wishing for more free time in order to spend it with his bride. Now on Zaroovia, his problem was the exact opposite, Lotor finding he had too much time on his hands. Time that allowed his mind to wander, to think back and regret. Two and a half months…he could hardly believe so much time had passed, Lotor feeling he could count out to the exact second he had last seen Allura.

He sighed, closing his eyes. trying to prevent himself from conjuring the image of her sweet face. But there was no stopping his mind from working, his angel appearing before him, blue eyes sparkling as she smiled at him. He felt as though his stomach clenched at the memory of her smile, a familiar pain dulling his thoughts as he remembered how happy they had been together.

It was even worse when he forced himself to think on those last days on Arus, the anger between them, the disappointment in Allura’s eyes. It brought forth feelings of failure, Lotor knowing he proved less than worthy to Allura with his way of handling things. He actually regretted lying to her, having had time to move beyond the annoyance he first felt when his deception had been discovered. Back then he had been more bothered than regretful, thinking it a small annoyance that would be easy to vanquish.

When he realized just how hurt she was over his research into making another Voltron, Lotor had gone to desperate measure to make things right for her. Lotor had truly thought killing those scientists would be enough, that the destruction of the data would appease her. He had realized too late how horrified Allura would truly be, tearing her further from his grasp. He wondered now if there would have been a different way to make amends for his lies, ones she could have lived with.

“I guess we’ll never know.” Lotor murmured softly to himself. He hated this time to himself, spending hours endlessly going over all that had happened. He liked to linger on the happy memories, of which there had been too few of, but more often than not he spent that time of reflection stuck on the last few days he had spent with her. Thinking of the rift between them, and how it seemed insurmountable.

Which is why he had fled, Lotor unable to be around her and tolerate her heart growing more and more distant from his. It pained him to be so close to Allura, and yet feel her so far from him. To see her and not be able to touch her, to not be able to talk to her without hearing accusations and anger in her voice. It hurt him, made him grow agitated and hostile in return, his words snapping out with more cruelty than he had ever intended to show Allura.

He knew that only succeeded in making things even worse, if neither one of them was willing to be kind, the marriage was doomed to fall apart. So he put distance between them, thousands of light years of it, as he sped off to the far end of the galaxy. It was here in the atmosphere of Zaroovia that he spent his anger, unleashing it in the form of laser battles, watching it fade bit by bit with every explosion on Zaroovian ships.

With his anger spent, he was only left with his sorrows and regret. And yet not once did he think to approach Allura, finding he was scared of what her reaction would be if he contacted her. He hated the fear and uncertainty, despised it with all his being. But he knew it would be his undoing if he contacted her, and found her still angry, her heart still closed to him.

So he kept them separated, unable to move ahead, or go back a few steps, their relationship caught in an awkward limbo. He couldn’t, wouldn’t let her go, not completely. Lotor was simply to unwilling to free Allura from him, even if it would be easier on both of them if he agreed to divorce her. Lotor couldn’t bear the thought of her moving on without him, telling himself he’d be content if he could have her in name alone.

That was hardly true, he was not content, Lotor finding his sleep disturbed and his dreams haunted with the memory of Allura. Thoughts of her colored his every action, even here on Zaroovia where he strove to make a difference by keeping the invasion as peaceful as it could be given the circumstances.

With a heavy sigh, he turned away from the window, his office darkened now that the suns had set. There was no excuse to linger in the room, no stacks of paperwork, and no visitors to see. He could do nothing more than return to the chambers he had acquired for himself, the bedroom apartment of the former ruler of Zaroovia. He hardly looked forward to the retreat, knowing the large room would feel empty without Allura by his side.

Lotor knew he would spend another lonely night with nothing more than his drink to keep him company. He supposed he could always ask his commander to rustle up a few girls, there was plenty of women eager to ply their trade among the Drule soldiers. But such thoughts just left him feeling hollow, Lotor knowing that no one, no matter how talented she might prove in bed, could compare to the radiance of having Allura in his arms.

He groaned, not wanting to torment himself further with memories of the few days of sexual ecstasy he had found with his princess, Lotor stalking across the room. He yanked open the doors, startling the guards out in the hall, the men standing at attention as they saluted him. “Consider yourselves dismissed for the night…” Lotor growled, already moving down the corridor, not paying attention to their murmured thanks.

His expression was stormy, people hurrying out of his way at the sight of him, fearing what he would do in so agitated a state. Lotor thought they were right to move, wondering if an act of cruelty would be enough to chase away the melancholy thoughts he was experiencing. He was already sure he would slip into destructive mood, wreck the bedroom in an attempt to soothe himself to the fact that he was all alone and it was no one’s fault but his own.

Lotor was already imagining the satisfaction he would get from breaking glass, and overturning furniture when Commander Merack stepped in front of him. The Drule dropped into a low bow, hardly reacting when Lotor growled out an angry word.

“What?”

“I thought you would like to know.” Began Merack, falling into place besides Lotor. The two of them walked through the corridor, the commander not bothered by Lotor’s hurried pace. “We have received word from Arus.”

“And?” Lotor refused to show his interest, keeping a bored tone in his voice.

“It continues much as it has been these last two and a half months.” Merack told him, hand gesturing. “The planet is well on the way to recovery with Doom’s help, and while much of this season’s crops were lost to fires caused during the war, with Doom’s supplying money to Arus’ coffers, none of the people need go hungry this year. The people have already begun planting for next season, determined to make it on their own so Arus needn’t rely on others for food. The money saved will be better spent on restoring many of the buildings destroyed by our robeasts, as well as allowing Arus to buy ingredients to make new and stronger medicines.”

“I see.” Lotor sighed, realizing Allura must be keeping busy with these very things, overseeing the rebuilding of the towns, and the feeding of her people. “It’ll still be at least a year or more before Arus can divert money towards improving their technology. But perhaps with the crops no longer being destroyed, it can once again become a contender towards supplying other planets with food.”

“Arus could certainly use the money from such an enterprise.” Agreed Merack. “Doom cannot forever pay the planet’s way.” Lotor nodded in agreement, turning down a corridor. “All signs of the resistance have of course been stamped out. It would appear that any who dare rise up against Doom lost all heart upon learning of the fate of the terrorists.”

“Good.” Tone gruff, Lotor nodded his approval. He was glad there was no one to give his wife trouble, but he didn’t like the reminder, subtle as it was over what he had done to the rebel terrorists. He knew the night of the ball had been the first incident that led towards Allura pulling apart from him.

“The Drules and the Arusians are getting along for the most part.” Continued Merack, the two men walking down a corridor that ended in a stair case. The stairs led upwards to the floor with the bedrooms, Lotor slowing his pace as he listened to what Merack had to say. “The settlements have all been completed, with people arriving from Doom and the outer lying planets to live in them. Of course there is some grumbling from the Drules, since those that chose to live on Arus had to abandon their slaves…”

“No doubt my father is enjoying exiling people to Arus for that very reason.” Lotor said, thinking of the people of the Doom court who angered Zarkon on a daily basis. Merack nodded, Lotor snorting in displeasure. “Arus needn’t be seen as a fate worse than death. They can hire servants rather than boss around slaves….It would do much for the economy of the planet.”

“Old habits are hard to break.” Merack said as they reached the stairs.

“Indeed.” A question on his lips, Lotor’s tone softened. “And Allura? What of Allura?” He tried to keep from appearing too eager, not wanting to betray how desperate he was for any tidbit of information about the princess.

A serious look from Merack, the man lingering at the bottom of the stairs. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Lotor frowned at him, shaking his head no. “Commander, we have been over this before.”

“It can’t hurt to try and talk to her.” Merack said, gazing up at Lotor. “You haven’t attempted to make contact in months…surely there has been enough time for her to…”

“To what?” Lotor demanded. “To forgive me? To get over what I have done? No commander…” Lotor shook his head. ‘I doubt Allura will ever forgive me. I bet she doesn’t even think about me except as a bad dream.”

“You don’t know that.” Merack retorted. “You won’t know until you try and talk to her!”

“I wouldn’t even know what to say to her if I saw her!” Lotor retorted, agitation sounding in his voice. “I just remember those last days in the castle, those few stolen moments when we encountered each other, how awkward and rife with angry tension our attempts at conversation had been.”

“It will always be that way if you continue to avoid her.” Merack pointed out. “A true relationship takes work. You do realize that, don’t you? It’s not all a bed of roses and happy times. There’s bad times as well as good, but together you work through them.”

“Then perhaps the problem is with me.” Lotor said, and was abruptly moving up the stairs. “Maybe I was never cut out for anything more than one night stands.”

“I don’t believe it.” Merack’s voice called after him, the commander remaining at the bottom of the stairs. “And deep down, I don’t think you believe it either!”

Lotor chose not to dignify that with a retort, stomping up off the last step and into a new hallway. It was the topmost level of the high building, the tower like structure that had been the castle of the former King of Zaroovia. The halls here were nearly empty save for a stray guard who did his lonely patrol up and down the corridor. Lotor barely paid him any mind, stalking past him as he hurried towards his chambers.

He was growling softly, finding the urge to destroy something was stronger than before. He wondered if he’d make it to the bar before he’d start screaming, Lotor wanting to lash out and prove Merack’s words wrong. His hands gripped the handle, Lotor jerking the door open, and with a low muted curse stepped into the apartment. He went to slam the door behind him, hearing it bang as he went to flick the lights on.

To his shock he wasn’t alone, a figure cloaked in a heavy velvet stood with their back to him. The dark navy color of the cloak had blended in with the darkness, leaving the person invisible until the lights came on. The figure was standing before the windows, gazing out on the lights of the cityscape. His mysterious visitor hadn’t so much as acknowledged him, no word of hello, nor was there a threat issued out between them.

“Who are you?” hissed Lotor, hand dropping to the sword that lay sheathed on his belt. “What are you doing here? Who let you in?”

“It’s strange…” He had begun moving towards the figure, but that soft, feminine voice stopped him cold. “I thought I’d feel angrier at hearing your voice. But instead…” Arms raised up, he saw pale hands touching the hood of the cloak, tossing it back to reveal a shining mass of golden curls. They cascaded downwards, disappearing into the cloak, but Lotor knew that unless she had grown out her hair even longer since last he had seen her, that hair would only reach as far as the top of her bottom.

“Instead I only feel relief…” She continued, never taking her eyes off the city. Lotor’s hand had fallen to his side, the sword staying sheathed as he gaped in shock at the figure that stood across the room from him. “Lotor….” A note of sadness in her voice, the prince feeling pained to hear it. “Why haven’t you called?”

His mouth had dried, his lips opening and closing as he tried to form an answer. “Allura…”

She seemed to sigh with her whole body, the princess beginning a slow turn towards him. “I never thought I’d hear you say my name again…” She wasn’t quite smiling, but she didn’t look angry, Allura’s blue eyes bright with emotion. Her lips, painted a soft pink trembled, Lotor fearing she might break down in tears at any moment. He stared back at her, feeling emotion well up in him, the mere sight of her moving his heart to beat faster.

“Allura.” Lotor licked his lips, buying a few seconds more time to think. “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“It wasn’t easy to track you down.” She admitted, a hand lifted to brush back the unruly curls that framed her face. “It was certainly beyond Arus’ resources to comb the galaxy looking for my wayward husband. There are so many wars that Doom is engaged in….you could have been anywhere…” A wry smile then, Lotor enchanted to see it on her face. “Fortunately for me, I have friends in high places.”

“Garrison.” Lotor breathed out. “You had Galaxy Garrison help you.”

“They were most accommodating.” Allura said. “You’re a high profile man…a wanted criminal in some circles. I’m not surprised Garrison was able to locate your whereabouts…though it took time. So much time wasted…” She look frustrated at that, heaving another sigh. “So…” A look around the room, her hand doing an idle gesture. “This is where you’ve been spending all your time?”

“I’m almost done with Zaroovia.” Lotor answered. “There’s not much left for me to over see here. I was thinking of going somewhere else, perhaps Demos or Pulsac.”

“Why not Arus?” She questioned, with a lift of her brows. “Surely you would not leave your business there unfinished.”

“Business…? Ah but all reports say Arus is doing fine without me.” A forced smile then, Lotor walking a step closer to Allura. “It is thriving under your rule.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Allura said, remaining where she stood, just watching him with unfathomable eyes. “Arus still has a long way to go before it recovers from all that has happened to it. Of course Doom’s assistance helps, but it’s a lot of hard work.”

“I’m sure you can manage just fine.” Lotor said reassuringly.

“On my own you mean?” Allura asked, her lips forming a frown at his nod. “Of course I can. But I shouldn’t have to. My husband should be there to lend his assistance.”

“Ah….is that why you’re here?” Lotor said, keeping his voice even. “You need my help with something? My father being difficult about coughing up the gold needed to help Arus recuperate?” A shake of her head, blond curls bouncing.

“Your father has been his usual ornery self. More interested in sending scientist to study Voltron than care about my planet or it’s people. He’s not even being subtle about it Lotor!”

“I’ll speak to him for you.” Lotor told her, and she nodded. “So…” He kept his tone casual, heading towards the bar. “Is that why you sought me out? Because of…the situation with my father’s scientists?”

“No, Lotor.” Allura said as he began pouring himself a drink. He heard the rustle of her cloak, the prince turning with brandy in hand to look at her. A sharp, indrawn breath escaped him, seeing she had dropped her cloak to reveal the form fitting dress she wore beneath it. “I’m here to get my husband back.”


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