It would take a few hours before our escape pod was picked up by one of the ships that made up the Doom armada. Even with Voltron and the Polluxian military joining forces, the Drule ships were slow to retreat. They hadn’t gotten word that the flag ship had been destroyed, their leaders on the run. If anything, many of the ships assumed all was going according to plan. At least until Voltron appeared on the horizon of that first city, and immediately set about to attacking the Drule ships.
Word had quickly begun to spread all over the planet Pollux, but the ships couldn’t just leave. Not while they were actively engaged with Pollux’s military. It would take time for them to cut a path to their escape, and not all the ships would make it off the planet. Pollux would become a grave yard for many a Drule solider. But not for Lotor, the prince survived without a scratch on him.
He was bloody though, covered in the red liquid of those he had killed. That included Romelle’s father, Cova having died a most violent death. I wondered if Lotor couldn’t have found a better way. Certainly he could have done with causing such trauma to Romelle. She’d be haunted by the scenes in the courtyard, her future filled with nightmares that taunted her with the way her father had been killed before her.
She really was strong, enduring things that would have made a lesser mind, woman OR man, snap. Even at her lowest, when she yearned for death, Romelle still retained her wits about her. She fought, and she threatened, exasperating Lotor to the point he lost interest in tormenting her. At least for the moment, the prince ordering her to be put in a holding cell. There she would wait, all but forgotten as Lotor tried to take stock of the situation.
He was agitated, anyone could see that. He actually took to pacing the floor of the command deck, and many studiously avoided looking his way. His glare was malicious, Lotor quick to lose temper over the slightest thing. More than one Drule had been beheaded for some small slight. To worsen matters, Lotor kept touching his sword’s pommel, fingers tense as though he would draw it at any moment.
“Haggar! How could you make such an inferior robeast?!” Lotor snarled, his gaze having landed on the witch. She had her crystal ball in hand, Coba sitting on her lap. The blue cat had not calmed down from our flight inside the escape pod, actually kneading his paws in an anxious manner on the coarse wool of Haggar’s robe.
“There was no fault in my magic or in Avok.” Haggar’s voice was calm. She might be the only one who could manage such a tranquil expression, knowing she was safe from Lotor’s fury. “It is that robot Voltron. It simply proved to be stronger than the robeast. Do not worry sire…I am learning from these battles. Soon, soon I will be able to make a robeast that will be Voltron’s equal.”
“We don’t need it to be it’s equal, we need one that is it’s better!” growled Lotor. “You promised that Avok was your best robeast yet!”
“And he was!” Haggar quickly assured him. “He was faster, stronger…”
“And easily distracted.” Grumbled Lotor. “He was more brawn than brain!”
“A robeast that can think for itself is dangerous.” Haggar protested. “We run the risk of it turning against our ships…”
“At least you have the princess sire.” The witch continued. But she didn’t sound happy about that. “It’s not a total loss…”
“My father won’t see it that way.” Lotor grumbled. He had yet to contact the home world, Lotor not wanting to inform Zarkon that Doom had been handed another loss. It was especially demoralizing when you consider the size of the armada we had brought with us, the amount of ships and soldiers we had lost in this battle. The King would not be pleased, and I didn’t look forward to the reprimands and punishments he would deal out to us.
There was one good thing that came out of our defeat. And that was the fact that it left Lotor too distracted to bother princess Romelle. How could he think of seduction when he had his father to worry about? The wrath of King Zarkon is a fear inspiring threat, not even Lotor was immune to it’s power.
Lotor would be busy, spending much of the journey back to planet Doom trying to think up a way to spin a positive from our defeat. His very neck might be on the line, and he would strive to save it. And if by some chance he could not, he would drag us all down with him. It made all three of us anxious, Mogor, Haggar and I working to offer him up suggestions. Or at least try to paint the bright side of things as far as the debacle of planet Pollux was concerned.
“At least the King is dead.” Mogor spoke up. His voice turned uncertain when Lotor turned his way, the General trying not to cower from the prince’s glare. “You killed him with your own sword. That has to count for something…..right?”
“My father wanted the entire planet wiped out.” Lotor reminded us then. “I hardly think he will be appeased by the few deaths we caused, even if we have left that planet leaderless.”
“It wasn’t just a few deaths.” Haggar protested, her hand moving in smooth strokes along Coba’s back. “Our estimation has put the number at nearly one hundred thousand humans dead. That is hardly insignificant.” Lotor frowned at her, hardly reassured. “We did our best.” The witch continued. “We used what resources were available to us. It is not our fault that Avok proved no match for Voltron.”
“Isn’t it?” Lotor demanded. “We believed Cova and his family’s claims that Avok would make a peerless robeast. My father would say we had been gullible…”
“No more than King Zarkon was.” Haggar said, to gasps all around her. It was practically blasphemy she spoke of now, the witch calm as she continued to pet her cat. “He too bought into the lies the Polluxians told us. He too was overcome by the sheer confidence the royal family had in their prince.”
“My father will never agree to share the blame in this, and you know it, witch!” Lotor snarled, angry again. “A lot of time, money, and man power went into this operation…and you know how he hates to waste resources!”
“It’s not a complete waste…” Haggar insisted. “It was a valuable learning experience. The data I collected on Voltron, and from it’s fight with Avok…”
“The data is useless until you start producing results! Ones that favor Doom!” Lotor snapped, then turned to snarl at the soldier who drew near to him. “WHAT?! What is it?!”
“Prince Lotor, sire…” The soldier did a hasty bow, sweating profusely. “There is an incoming message..”
Lotor instantly stiffened with displeasure. “From my father?!”
“No sire. It’s from Pollux…”
“From Pollux?! What could they possibly have to say to us?!” Mogor asked what we all were wondering, Lotor growling.
“I don’t have time to listen to their pathetic whining.”
“Then I shall have them cut short Prince Bandor’s transmission?” wondered the soldier. We all reacted, no one expecting to hear from who we had assumed was a dead boy.
“Prince Bandor you say?” Lotor demanded, and the soldier nodded. “How the hell did he survive?!” We were all shrugging and shaking our heads, not having to feign ignorance. I knew then that the fate for the soldier who had claimed credit for taking down Bandor wouldn’t be pretty. You didn’t disappoint King Zarkon or Prince Lotor. Not if you wanted to live.
“Tell him he can go to Hell!” decided the prince, and Haggar quickly spoke up.
“Let’s not be too hasty my prince. We may be able to use the child’s love for his sister to our advantage.”
“What do you mean?” Lotor asked, and Haggar grinned.
“He is but a boy…not even a man yet. He has just lost his father and brother…he will be desperate to hang onto any family he has left. Especially an older, adored sister.”
“So taking Romelle may have been to our advantage after all..” Mused Mogor, than flinched when Lotor glared at him. “I just meant that she might make a difference, that she might matter after all…”
“She’s always mattered.” Lotor snapped. and Haggar laughed. “She’s mattered to ME.”
“That’s all well and good sire.” Said the witch. “But personal feelings aside, Romelle did not have much value. But that may have changed. Speak to Bandor….see how foolish and vulnerable his despairing heart makes him now.”
“Very well.” Lotor sighed, then nodded at the soldier. “Put the call through.”
“Yes, your highness.” The soldier scurried off, quick to find a technician capable of handling Lotor’s request.
“I won’t hand over Romelle to him.” Lotor warned the witch. “No matter what he tries to offer, or threaten us with.”
“Of course sire.” Haggar soothed. “But Bandor does not need to know that. As long as he has the hope of Romelle’s return, we may be able to make him our puppet.”
“For all the good that will do.” Grumbled Lotor. He turned towards the front of the deck, looking at the large view screen that took up the size of one wall from floor to ceiling. The image that was currently wavering on the screen, was that of the space around us, planet Pollux a distant blob. Hundreds of Drule war vessels surrounded us, many bearing scarring from the fighting they had engaged in.
We were moving at a steady clip, just short of our top most speed as we scurried back to Doom. We were all eager to leave the memory of Pollux behind us. Even if we would get a less than favorable welcome from the home world upon our return. Doom did not celebrate losses, did not care that much about those that survived a battle gone horribly wrong.
The image on the view screen continued to waver, the scenery blurring as it was replaced with the picture of a room. I recognized it as the command center of the castle on Pollux, one of the many places Romelle had shown me during our tour of her home. Prince Bandor was standing, surrounded by soldiers who had survived the massacre. The young prince looked angry, but also in good health. He didn’t even have blood on his clothes, making me wonder just where the Drule’s blast had hit him.
“Ah Bandor.” Lotor left out all inflection to his voice, not betraying any of the anger he had displayed just seconds ago. “You survived.”
“No, thanks to you and your soldiers!” Bandor all but snarled back at Lotor. He looked to be shaking with his anger, his hands forming fists as he glared at us. I wondered if he had noticed the blood on Lotor, if he realized that some of it was his own father’s. “How could you do this to us?! We had an alliance!”
“Did we now?” Lotor questioned, then smirked. “I don’t recall there ever being a formal agreement. We certainly never made any binding contracts. Very foolish of your father, the late King Cova, neglecting to insist on the proper paperwork.”
Bandor didn’t seem to know what to say to that, sputtering impotently. One of the soldiers placed their hand on his right shoulder, trying to calm him down. “So what you’re saying is that a Drule’s word is not good enough. That none of you are trustworthy.”
“I’d say we are about as trustworthy as you, Polluxians.”
“What is that supposed to mean?!” Bandor demanded.
“Just that your King, your father, planned to betray Doom. I dare say we are even in foul deeds.” Lotor laughed then at the look on Bandor’s face, his eyes widening slightly. “Oh don’t act so shocked, young highness. I’m sure even you had to have some idea that your father’s ambitions ran deeper than just invading Arus. Why else would he be so eager to sacrifice his own flesh and blood to become a robeast? Hmm?”
“I…that is….father…” Bandor was shaking his head no, seeming incapable of speech. “You lie!”
“Do I now?” Lotor asked. “Well, I suppose if that comforts you more than the truth. And it’s not as if we can question Cova. After all, dead man tell no tales.”
“Such language! What do they teach boys on Pollux?” tittered Haggar.
“You killed him! And not just him!”
“If you’re here simply to tell me what I already know, then I’m afraid this call is at an end.” Lotor started to make a signal to cut the transmission off, when Bandor screamed.
“Yes?” We all were staring at the young prince, some of us breathless with anticipation.
“My sister..” Bandor’s tone was gruff, he was trying to be brave. “I want her back.”
“I’ve no doubt of that.” Lotor said. “She is a charming, delightful girl. Surely you need her now more than ever.”
“A young prince, with little experience with what it means to be King…” Haggar was adding her own two cents to the conversation. “You need her guidance, need her to help you become the kind of man capable of ruling your planet…”
“I don’t care about ruling!” Bandor snapped. “I just want my sister back!” he paused, then added in a plaintive voice. “She’s the only family I have left.” And didn’t we all know that! In fact Lotor and Haggar were counting on Bandor being willing to do anything to get his sister back.
“That is a pity.” Lotor said, feigning a sigh.
“Pity? Why would you use such a word?!” Bandor was bothered by Lotor’s words.
“Because that is what it is.” Lotor told him. “Romelle is valuable to both of us. And I’m not about to give her up without proper compensation.”
“What KIND of compensation?” Bandor demanded, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Well, to start with, you can end any and all association with Arus.”
“With Arus?!” Bandor repeated, and Lotor nodded.
“Do not try to play me for a fool. I know your military worked wtih Voltron to fight off my armada. But Bandor, it goes no further than this! Not if you want Romelle to remain unharmed.”
“That’s not all you would have me do, is there?” Bandor asked, his eyes flashing with emotion. “What else would you force me to do?”
“You catch on quick.” Lotor nodded in approval.
“Save the backhanded praise, and just tell me!” Bandor ordered. Lotor paused, needing a moment to think it out.
“You stand poised on the verge of making an alliance with Arus….we can use that to our advantage. Yes..” Lotor smiled, pure pleasure in that expression. “You will lure them into talks with you. It matters not where. Just so long as you can position your soldiers to capture Allura, and kill the other members of the Voltron force.” Bandor looked shocked at that, making me wonder if he had his fill of killing. “It should be easy for you after all. Deception runs in your family’s blood…what’s one more betrayal when your sister’s safety depends on it?”
“I…I couldn’t do that..” Bandor began, and Lotor shrugged.
“It matters not to me. I will have Arus one way or another. And in the meantime, Romelle will make a fitting distraction.”
“What do you mean by that?!” Bandor asked, and laughter erupted from many of the Drules. It was crude and lecherous, disturbing to hear, even if one was as innocent as Bandor appeared to be. “You leave my sister alone!”
“I’m not at all sorry to tell you this, but you don’t give the orders here. I do.” Lotor was pleased to say that, smirking deeply. “You will personally capture the princess, and hand me Arus…and maybe, just maybe I will consider giving you back Romelle.”
“You really are scum.” Bandor surprised us all with that statement. “You have no intention of giving her back, do you? You will just continue to make demands, until Pollux is all used up. And then what? You’ll kill us?!”
Bandor was proving to be quite smart with his guesses, a fact that displeased Lotor. “You’ll just have to take that risk!” growled Lotor.
“No, I don’t think so.” Bandor said. He looked like he was struggling with what he had to say, fighting not to break down into tears. “Tell my sister I love her. But the fate of one person does not outweigh the needs of many. Avok taught us both that.”
“Don’t be so hasty, young prince!” Haggar called out, sounding a bit desperate. “Take a moment to think on it….call us back with your decision.”
Bandor looked at her a long moment, and then was making his own, rude gesture. The transmission then ended, the image of Bandor and his soldiers being replaced with that of the ships that surrounded ours. A glance Haggar’s way showed how shocked she was by Bandor’s behavior, the witch shaking her head and mutering things about how rude the boys on Pollux were.
“Well, witch? What did that serve to accomplish?!” Lotor demanded, striding over to her. “If anything, I’m sure this just strengthen his determination to make a lasting alliance with Arus!”
“Maybe, maybe not…” Haggar retorted, hardly fazed by Lotor’s nearness. “It won’t matter, even if they do join forces. Pollux is pathetic when it comes to military might…they won’t even make a ripple in the galaxy’s ocean.”
“They better not.” Lotor grumbled. “We’ve really screwed up big time.” He added. “My father will be furious about this alliance between Arus and Pollux.”
“Let him be.” Haggar said. “I’m sure a case can be made, to prove how disadvantageous to Arus Pollux will prove to be. After all…” Her voice took on a sickening sweet tone, Haggar resuming stroking Coba. “Arus will now be obligated to lend a hand to Pollux. If we concentrate on both worlds, Arus will have to divide it’s forces….all to uphold the alliance with it’s neighbor…”
“Hmph.” Lotor was hardly impressed with her reasoning.
“Arus has always had a history of running to it’s neighbor’s defense. Pollux should prove no different.”
“It better not witch, it better not!” Lotor growled threateningly. Haggar didn’t so much as blink in response to his growl, the witch instead bending over her lap so that Coba could rub his face against hers. Lotor stared at her a moment longer, before turning away in disgust. It wasn’t just the witch he was exasperated with. It was all of us, and the situation, Lotor fed up and knowing there was nothing he could do to change what had happened. He couldn’t know it then, but he might have made things a lot easier on himself if he had just given Romelle back to Bandor when asked.