There was activity bustling all around him, people moving about, working, or calling out orders to each other. They carried many tools, things Lotor had no name for or clue as to what purpose they served. Sparks flew around the using of some of those tools, the technicians wielding pieces to ships, or drilling holes into their metal hide to get at the wiring inside.
There were ships as far as the eye could see, cluttered in close to each other, with barely enough room for their wings to avoid scraping against their sides. Most of the ships were in some state of disrepair, technicians working to fuel them up, or to replace parts. There was some ships in which slaves carried off boxes, cargo that contained items valuable to keeping the castle running.
The smell of lazon was in the air, along with hot oil and the sweat of the people working in crowded confines. Nowhere in the castle was the summer season more apparent then down in the docks, the air conditioning seeming to fail inside this large area.
Lotor knew he should be fascinated by all that was occurring around him. After all it was his first time in the castle docks, and with it came many new experiences, the least of which being the sight of one of his father’s top performing battleships. But Lotor barely gave the ship more than a cursory glance, the boy too focused on the girl whose hand he held.
The new sights and sounds weren’t provoking a reaction in Allura, the girl continued to stare without really seeing anything. She seemed a hopeless case, neither talking nor playing, Allura worse off then when she had first arrived on Doom. Lotor hadn’t wanted to admit the severity of her problems, had not wanted to face the fact that she was beyond his help.
And so he had delayed things, Lotor pushing everything aside to work with the girl on a recovery she was unable to make. They had spent a sad summer day, celebrating her tenth birthday. Lotor had insisted on it, forcing the cooks to prepare the meal Adaline had originally ordered, the boy feeding Allura by hand. She ate willingly enough but without enjoyment, just staring at him to the point he grew uncomfortable.
Lotor had found Adaline’s stash of presents, the boy opening the gifts for Allura. She had received a new doll, along with a small plastic closet full of clothes for the toy. Allura had barely blinked when he held the doll up before her face, Lotor wanting to cry at her lack of reaction.
He had sang songs to her, and read her stories, ones that his mother had favored. He even allowed Allura to sleep with him, though the action was partly selfish, Lotor wanting the comfort of her body to help stave off nightmares involving his mother and her murder. But his own presence couldn’t keep Allura from dreaming, the girl waking up shrieking, wordless screams of fear that no amount of hugging could stop.
His father tolerated all this surprisingly well, allowing Lotor to focus on Allura instead of the grieving process. He even allowed Lotor to forgo his training, the prince feeling gratitude swell up in his heart for it meant he had more time to devote to his friend.
He took Allura everywhere he went, dragging her unresisting form all over the castle. He showed her the sights and sounds, pointing out things of interest, and trying to keep from breaking down in frustration over her lack of response. He felt she was like a puzzle, a great mystery that needed a special key to unlock. He tried to be that key, but nothing he did worked on her.
Lotor was left to grieve Allura as much as his mother, the boy pondering a thousand what ifs. The greatest guilt of all came with the day of his mother’s death, Lotor remembering how Allura had followed him all the way to the harem. Would things have been different if he hadn’t chased her off? He felt certain the answer was yes, Lotor knowing if he kept Allura from storming off it would have saved her from witnessing his mother’s murder.
His father’s harem was a source of great guilt, Lotor blaming his infatuation with the women there as preventing him from being with Adaline in her final moments. He often thought if he hadn’t gone to the harem that day, he would have been close at hand to defend his mother from the wicked knave who had so brutally taken her life. He felt certain his mother would still be alive, Lotor blaming himself for her death now.
~It’s all my fault.~ Over and over he repeated that thought, the words becoming Lotor’s mantra. He could find no joy in life, the prince merely existing to make atonements by rescuing Allura from the prison of her mind. And even there he failed, a week going by, his father waiting until after the funeral to approach,
“Lotor, son…” He had said, his voice grave with his seriousness. “This cannot continue.” Lotor had felt certain he knew where his father was going with this, the boy
trying to feign ignorance. His father had seen right through him, Zarkon heaving a sigh as he spoke. “It’s time boy. Time to let her go.”
Lotor had glanced at Allura, the girl sitting on his bed, just staring at the floor. “You know I am right.” Zarkon had continued, his voice more gruff than gentle. “You’ve done all you can for the girl, and it’s still not enough.”
“She’s getting better!” Lotor had insisted, boldly lying to his father. “Allura…Allura doesn’t scream half as much now during the nights.”
“That’s not what my men report.” Zarkon had retorted, leaving Lotor to frown and silently curse his father’s spies. “Face it Lotor. The girl is broken inside…”
“I can fix her..” Lotor had started to say, only for Zarkon to growl over him.
“You can not! It is beyond the capabilities of one lone boy.”
“Mother fixed her last time. Why can’t I?” Lotor had whispered.
“Adaline always had a special touch with children.” Zarkon had admitted. “And the girl, she wasn’t as damaged then as she is now.”
“Then what can we do?” He had still been whispering, as though Allura would overhear and disapprove of what they were saying.
“She needs professional help. But to get it, she’ll have to leave us.” Zarkon had said, Lotor giving a panicked shake of his head.
“No! I cannot bear to send her away!”
“Even if it’s for her own good?” Zarkon had wanted to know, and the question gave Lotor pause, the prince glancing at Allura. “Lotor, I will send her to the best hospital money can buy, she will have the best brain specialists tending to her night and day. If there is some way to reach her, they will find it.”
And still he had been uncertain, allowing two more days to go by before he caved to the realization that his father knew best when it came to Allura. His father had nodded in approval when Lotor told him his decision, the man hurrying off to put into motion his plans. It barely took any time at all for Zarkon to contact the hospital, leaving Lotor to believe his father had already been in communication with the doctors.
It all happened so fast, the doctors agreeing to take Allura’s case, the ship that would take her off of Doom being made ready, her things being packed away. He had barely had time to get used to the idea of losing this person who had been such a constant in his life, Allura a loving presence that had comforted and made his existence worthwhile.
Now he would have no one, his mother dead, and Allura gone, Lotor left to mourn them both. He understood Allura’s leaving wasn’t the same as Adaline dying, but it hurt all the same, Lotor clinging to the girl, begging and pleading with her to come to her senses. Nothing roused her, and soon the day of her leaving arrived, Lotor tended to Alllura’s dress, brushing out her braids so that her hair spread in waves around her.
Lotor insisted Allura wear her best dress, the boy wanting her to make a good impression on the doctors. The servants came, and took away her suitcases, Lotor spending a few more minutes alone with the girl. He clung to her, hugging her tight and whispering promises that they would meet again once she was healed of her mind’s affliction.
Soon he could not hold off the leaving any more, Lotor reluctantly taking Allura by the hand and leading her to the docks. There wasn’t anyone else to see her off, no one seemed to care about the girl, furthering Lotor’s upset. But he willed himself not to cry, Lotor not wanting to make a scene that would be reported back to his father. His behavior must be perfect, not just for his sake but Allura’s.
Lotor couldn’t imagine what Allura would think if she saw him break down completely, Lotor positive that there was some glimmer inside her that allowed her to be aware of what happened around her. She just couldn’t react to it, forced to silently endure any and everything that occurred around her, good or bad.
He gave her hand a squeeze, turning to glance over his shoulder at her. Save for the blinking of her eyes there was no reaction, Lotor forcing a smile on his face as he tried to sound reassuring. “You see that ship Allura?” He turned her in the direction of the white and gray passenger vessel, the ship large enough to transport over a dozen people. “That’s the Salida ten four. You’ll be riding inside it, doesn’t that sound fun?”
He began walkign them closer to the passenger vessel, Lotor trying to sound envious. “I’m so jealous. You’ll get to fly in a ship before me!” Another look at her, Lotor continuing. “You’ll have to tell me all about it. I’m sure they’ll let you call me from the hospital. So don’t forget, you have to tell me every detail of your journey. I’m sure it will be exciting, you’ll be leaving Doom after all. You’ll get to see a new world, meet new people, experience new things.”
They were close enough to the ship to see the suitcases being loaded up onto the vessel, the human slaves not needing to struggle with the girls’ meager belongings. “It will be much more fun than staying here on Doom.” Lotor added, pulling Allura close to him for another hug. She just stood in his embrace, arms limp, leaving Lotor frustrated with the longing to feel another person’s arms around him.
“Allura…” Lotor whispered, knowing this would probably be the last hug he would have for a long while. “Don’t be sad.” He was speaking more to himself than her, Lotor’s grief welling up inside him, clenching his stomach into knots. “We’ll meet again. That’s my promise to you.” He hugged her harder, to the point he was sure he was suffocating her, Lotor whispering in her ear. “I know I don’t make promises often, but when I do, I keep them. So remember this one, and if you ever feel lonely, just think of me, and the good times we had together with my mother.”
Footsteps on the passenger vehicle’s ramp, the sound echoing down to him as it alerted him of a person’s approach. He glanced up from Allura, spying a human woman dressed in a white dress. She smiled at the children, kindness shining in her eyes. And yet Lotor was afraid of her, afraid of what her presence meant, the prince easing Allura to stand behind him.
“Hello your highness.” The woman did a stiff bow, giving him the respect he was worthy of. “I am nurse Tiliana. I will be traveling with Allura to the planet Zabatos.” She tried to peer around him at Allura, the woman continuing to smile.
“You have to be nice to her!” Lotor blurted out, voice sounding louder than he had intended. “You have to be patient and kind, and never yell at her, no matter how much she frustrates you with her lack of response.” Tiliana nodded, not at all put out by Lotor’s words. “And most of all….you have to love her.”
“I will do my best.” Tiliana promised, and Lotor almost growled.
“Do better than your best! Allura…Allura is my precious friend! Let nothing happen to her…nothing at all…” He left his sentence unfinished, but even then a threat lingered between them.
“I understand your highness.” Tiliana replied, then held out her hand in Allura’s direction. Lotor stared at it for a minute, reluctant to hand Allura over to this woman.
“Allura!” Lotor spun her around, hugging her once more. “Be safe, be safe!” Aware of the nurse’s eyes on them, he forced himself to pull back, letting of go Allura’s hand. She stood there uncertainly, Tiliana reaching to take hold of the girl. Allura moved when prodded to, the girl following Tiliana up the ramp. Lotor watched them go, then remembered the stuffed toy he had hanging on his belt.
“Wait!” His footsteps pounded up the metal ramp, Lotor shouting out in desperation. The nurse paused, turning to look at him, Lotor thrusting the stuffed robeast before her face. “This is Allura’s! It’s her most special toy….it’s been with her since she was little….you have to let her keep this with her.”
“All right you’re highness.” Tiliana took the toy from Lotor’s hands, giving it the once over. Lotor was aware the toy wasn’t in the best condition, it’s head having been restuffed and resewn a million times. She handed it towards Allura, pushing the toy against her chest. Lotor watched as Allura’s arms automatically moved, the girl clinging to the toy.
It was strange, but the sight of Allura holding onto the stuffed robeast gave Lotor comfort, the boy feeling there was some hope left in the world if she could respond that much to a simple toy. Lotor blinked back tears, and nodded gruffly to the nurse before hurrying back down the ramp.
Once at the bottom, he stood staring, watching in silent misery as nurse Tiliana urged Allura forward, the woman taking the girl farther and farther from him. And all the while he warred with his impulses, Lotor wanting to cry out, to say he had changed his mind and snatch Allura back into his arms.
The pair disappeared into the dark interior of the ship, and that was when Lotor moved, the prince forcing himself to walk away. He didn’t stop once he was at a safe distance, Lotor unable to bare the sight of the ship any longer. The Salida ten four would lift off without his eyes on it, Lotor hurrying towards the dock’s entrance that led back into the castle.
Shock of all shocks, his father was waiting for him there, the man lurking in the corridors just outside the dock’s doors. They didn’t speak at first, Zarkon falling into step with his son, the two traveling deeper into the castle.
“You did the right thing son.” Zarkon told him, placing a hand on his shoulder. Lotor just nodded, feeling as though his heart was breaking. They traveled in silence for a few minutes more, then Lotor turned to his father, expression serious.
“Father…is the reason you didn’t allow me to accompany you to hunt down mother’s killer because you think me weak?”
Zarkon paused, thinking the question over. Lotor appreciated the serious consideration the man was taking before answering. “Yes, Lotor. I didn’t think you ready to take a person’s life without flinching.”
Lotor sighed in reply, and Zarkon continued. giving him a tightlipped smile. “It’s different from killing a beast.”
“Is it harder?” Lotor asked, and Zarkon nodded.
“In some ways it is. But it’s also freeing…”
“Do you think if I had been there when the killer attacked my mother, if I would have been strong enough to defend her?” Another pause from his father, Lotor waiting impatiently for his answer.
“No, Lotor. You wouldn’t have been strong enough to stop her killer.”
“Then I need to train some more.” Lotor decided. “I need to get stronger, need to develop the skill it takes to put down the savages who would prey on weak, defenseless women.” He paused then, giving a side long glance to his father. “Will you help me?”
Zarkon’s eyes glittered with satisfied emotion, the King nodding. “I will. I’ll make you into the best Drule possible, one who would have been strong enough to save Adaline.”
“Then we start tomorrow.” Lotor said, giving a slight incline of his head. “I want to never repeat the tragedy that befell Adaline.” With those words he parted from his father, Lotor turning down a corridor that would soon meet up with one that would lead to his room. Adaline and Allura were still heavy in his thoughts, Lotor determined that one day he would become the strongest Drule possibly.