He could hear the cheers of the crowd, their applause ringing in his ears. Mixed in with that approval was the gasping of the humans, the dismayed cries they voiced at his actions. The two warred within him, an echo of what Lotor was feeling inside, the prince clenching his fist around his sword’s handle. The glow of the blade was dimmed, soaked so thoroughly in blood that he could no longer make out the blue of the lazon.
His sense of smell was thick with it, the blood overriding any other smell, leaving him to stagger away from the corpses. No one seemed to notice how shaky he was, not even his father who beamed approval down on him. Zarkon was practically glowing with pride, a wide grin on his face, the man flushed with satisfaction as though he himself had done the killing.
Lotor’s own bloodlust was fading, the prince slowly realizing what he had done, the boy wondering if these men’s deaths would be enough to sate the desire for revenge in his heart. He feared it would not, Lotor giving a shake of his head, drops of blood flying free of his hair. Allura was still dead, his heart raw with pain. The king of Demos must be made to pay, to suffer in the way Lotor suffered.
He raised his head, bold gaze meeting his father’s, Lotor giving a small nod of his head. Zarkon returned it, leaning forward into the podium’s microphone. “The deaths here today, do not begin to make up for the insult Demos has given Doom.” A dramatic pause, Zarkon giving his words the time to settle over the crowd. “More blood must be spilled, more lives sacrificed on the altar of our Gods!”
The Drules cheered this, and the humans present did not dare voice their upset. Zarkon continued to smirk, raising a benevolent hand to calm his audience. “Every single man and woman that wears the colors of Demos’ military will suffer a similar fate. This time, Doom takes no prisoners!” Wild applause, the Drules leaping to their feet, the sound echoing like thunder in Lotor’s ears.
With that dramatic proclamation Zarkon was turning, stepping down from the podium. Lotor followed after him, shaking his sword to dislodge some of the blood. A towel would be handed to him once he was backstage, Lotor taking care to clean off every drop of blood from his blade. Zarkon watched him do it, the man speaking to him.
“You did well son.”
“Thank you father.” Returned Lotor, the towel moving up and down his blade. The white fabric had immediately turned red, soaked through with all the blood he was mopping up. “What do you think will be Demos’ reaction to our message?”
“If they had any sense they’d be scared.” Zarkon snickered, the sound a grating hiss to Lotor’s ears. “But it’s not the people who make the decision, but their King. And I doubt he will cave in to defeat after just one loss, regardless of how many soldier’s lives are lost. You see son, it’s easy to hide behind your people, let them suffer for your
mistakes and errors in judgment.”
“The people of Demos should rebel then.” Lotor retorted, angry and wondering why they would continue to suffer a king that would lead them to their ruin. “They’d lose a King but gain their lives in the process.”
“It is never easy to overthrow a tyrant. Remember this Lotor.” Zarkon said, expression turning serious. “And Demos for all it’s mistakes against Doom has prospered exceedingly well under the current king’s rule. The people there do not yet know fear, have not suffered lost of wealth and the pangs of starvation. As long as they grow fat and rich they will be comfortable with their king.”
“Then let’s make them uncomfortable.” The boy said, feeling a flicker of unease go through him. He fought to keep from shaking, Lotor slowly sliding his sword back into it’s scabbard on his hip. “Cut off their supply routes, interfere with their businesses, make it so their conquests stop being lucrative.”
“Not a bad idea..” Zarkon said, his tone thoughtful. “We’ll have to start on a smaller scale though, focus on some of the worlds they’ve captured. But if they’re too busy defending those worlds from Doom, they won’t be able to wring out a profit from them.” He laughed then, carefully clapping a hand on Lotor’s back, somehow managing to avoid the blood on the prince’s clothes.
“You see son…” Zarkon’s voice took on a lecturing quality to it, Lotor holding back a sigh. “If a captured world becomes more troublesome than it’s worth, it’s usually better to cut your losses, let it free to flounder on it’s own.”
“Have you ever had to give up on a planet?” A curious Lotor asked.
“No never.” Zarkon immediately responded. He smirked, seeing the humor in self deprecation. “Haven’t you heard? They say I am like a ghoul dog with a fresh piece of meat. I never let go, not until every inch has been devoured.”
“Let’s hope the Demos King doesn’t share the same type of…hunger for his worlds.” Lotor muttered.
“We’ll soon have him starving. It will be easy pickings for Doom. We’ll take those worlds from him, dwindle down their numbers until only Demos is left. And then?”
“And then we’ll crush it.” Lotor finished for him, and Zarkon grinned in approval.
“That we will indeed boy. Now come…” Zarkon tried to steer him down a corridor, the direction the direct opposite of where Lotor wanted to go. “We should get started
on disposing of the remaining prisoners from Demos.”
“I’m sorry father….” Lotor demurred, trying to look regretful at missing the impending bloodbath. “But I have something I need to do. Remember?” Zarkon frowned, leaving Lotor to sigh and wonder if he had really forgotten or was only pretending to have. “I need to go see Allura.” He reminded the Drule, and Zarkon nodded, but looked no less displeased.
“Ah yes…that.” The king sighed, dropping his hand from Lotor’s back. “Well, a promise is a promise. And you deserve a reward after the way you handled those commanding officers’ executions.”
Lotor hid his relief, glad his father was honoring the deal they had made. “Thank you father. I won’t be gone long.”
“Please. Take all the time you need.” Came Zarkon’s surprising answer. “It will do good to exorcise her ghost from your life.”
He didn’t want to be rid of Allura’s ghost, or the memories of her that haunted him still. So he just nodded politely to his father, offering him a stiff bow of respect, before turning to leave down the opposite corridor. Once out of sight of his father, he broke into a run, Lotor feeling the need to strip off his clothes and get clean of the blood. It’s scent lingered, as strong as ever, to the point his stomach was unsettled.
It seemed the more time passed from the moment of the killings, the more Lotor was being affected by what he had done. The blood lust was no longer with, the need for vengeance tempered for the moment, Lotor just a boy once more. He barely made it into the bathroom, Lotor dropping to his knees to gag over the toilet. Except for some bile and saliva, there was nothing to throw up, Lotor having purposefully skipped his meals this day.
Still he sat there dry heaving, Lotor trying to attain the peace of mind he had had just before the killings had begun. It had been a mediative state of mind he had slipped into, Lotor enduring the long moments of his father’s speech, by repeating a mantra in his mind. The words spoke of purpose, spoke of avenging Allura so that her soul could finally rest. He also recalled the instant his father had told him what had happened to the girl, the horror and regret he had felt at learning she was dead. All that helped to harden his mind, to the point he felt dead inside, unaware of anything but the need to kill.
Such a mind set had made his task easy, Lotor stepping forward, his sword in hand. He hadn’t even noticed drawing it, somehow it was just there, his other hand reaching out to snag the officer by the hair. He fought Lotor, they all did, but with their hands chained behind their backs there was little the men could do to throw the boy off. Lotor at twelve had not yet come into his full strength, but even with only a quarter of Drule power surging through him, it had been enough. His swing had been sure, Lotor easily severing heads from necks, and with each spurt of blood he felt the excitement rise in him, the Drule blood lust coming over him.
He saved the high commander for last, the man making pitiful sounds around the ball gag in his mouth. His whimpers only goaded Lotor on, the prince licking his blood stained lips and smiling. It had been an empty, hollow expression, the prince distancing himself from his actions. He had been careful not to look in the man’s eyes, not to look into any of their eyes, Lotor fearing that whatever they would show him would be enough to stay his arm.
He couldn’t afford that, couldn’t allow a singe instance of pity or hesitation stopping him. It was a good practice, Lotor not faltering even one time, killing man after man in neat procession. He had earned his father’s approval, but at a cost to himself, Lotor knowing he could never go back to the boy he once was.
He knelt before the toilet for a few minutes more, and then was standing, stripping his ruined clothing off his body. He took a hurried shower, then was dressing in a fresh suit, wanting to look his best for Allura. He combed and tied back his hair, pausing to pick up a bouquet of flowers that lay settled on top of a table. They smelled a bit like her, but the scent was sharper, the fragrance almost strong enough to chase away the blood that still lingered around him.
Lotor rode a cruiser out to the ruined city, the prince staring out the window with an impassive look on his face. There was hardly anything of value left among the remains, almost every building destroyed, leaving block upon block of rubble, save for the odd occasion of a lone house that had somehow survived the bombing. Those houses seemed a mockery, taunting him that there could have been a chance for Allura if she had been inside one of them instead the destroyed hospital.
Intact houses and rubble wasn’t the only thing inside the city, there were downed ships, both of Drule and Demos’ models, shot down during the battle. Drules and human slaves were working to salvage the wrecks, pulling what cargo remained off of the ships, and searching for parts that worked or could be repaired. Lotor watched them move around, the Drules handling lazon whips, lashing them out at slaves for various disobediences and mistakes.
He was used to seeing slaves beat and bullied, especially on the battle cruisers that made up the Doom’s armada. He had spent much of the battle on the flag ship with his father, Lotor learning first hand the kind of things that went into maintaining control over not only one’s bridge, but the twelve dozen fleets that had comprised Doom;s
He learned the ins and outs of maintaining peace and order for one’s crew, the ship’s commander explaining to him that a happy crew was the first step towards being successful in battle. Or else you might have mutiny on your hands, the crewmen rebelling against you, or doubting your decisions. The crew depended on the commander to be able to react to everything going on around them, one not being allowed to show even the slightest hesitation when issuing out orders.
To hesitate was to die, for if the crew wasn’t confidant in their commander’s orders, their reactions would be slow, causing death and destruction to their ships and pilots. It had been an interesting discussion, but Lotor had been more interested in the men and women who manned the ships offensive capabilities. The prince had all but made a nuisance of himself, leaning over the working crew, watching as they zeroed in on targets and open fire.
He had even been allowed to fire a few shots of his own, Lotor learning a new way to kill. One he enjoyed, for in the midst of a space battle there was no chance to hear his quarry’s scream, no opportunity rising for them to stare in each other’s eyes. And so he hadn’t hesitated, opening fire on a large battle ship on Demos’ side. His hits landed, but it was no rip roaring accomplishment. The ship had simply been so large that there was no way Lotor could have missed.
Still his hits did not strike vital points, Lotor succeeding in doing only the minimal amount of damage. But it had been enough for him, the boy developing a taste for ship battles. His interest didn’t go unnoticed, his father promising him he would hire him teachers, ones that would help hone Lotor’s skills, make him able to fight not just with the sword, but with whatever weapons were at his disposal.
Such lessons wouldn’t begin until after they returned to Doom, and now with Zabatos officially part of the Doom Empire it wouldn’t be long before Lotor and his father began the journey home. He looked forward to returning, wanting to throw himself into his studies so as to distract him from his grief. A grief that flared stronger when the cruiser pulled to a stop, Lotor realizing they had arrived at the hospital’s coordinates.
He had been prepared for the sight, but not the wave of emotions that hit him, Lotor scrambling out of the cruiser. He barely remembered to bring the flowers with him, Lotor staring at the dirt and ash that made up the hospitals’ remains. There was nothing there, not even a sign to mark what had been, Lotor feeling as though he could be standing at any one of the similar spots in the city.
Everything had been destroyed, the building, the things inside, the people. His fingers clenched tighter around the flower’s stems, Lotor stepping into the mess, leaving sad little footprints in the ash. He thought on how unfair this was, that Allura had been reduced to nothing, not even a body left behind to prove her existence. It made his memories of her all the more precious, Lotor determined to hold on to them.
“Allura..” He spoke out loud, his voice as soft as a whisper. “I am so sorry. For everything. I thought I was doing what was best for you. I was wrong. And you paid the price.” He had reached the center of the rubble, the prince dropping down to his knees to sweep aside some of the dirt and ash, making a hole to plant the flowers into. “Your death won’t be in vain.” Continued Lotor, noting how strange the vibrant flowers looked next to the desolate colors of the ground. “I won’t stop until everyone who had a hand in your death, in the death of the people of this city, has paid. I’ll fight to the last man, until at last I reach the ruler of Demos.”
The wind howled, a lonely sound, it’s breeze stirring up the ash around him. Lotor shivered and kept right on staring at the flowers, knowing they marked the spot of Allura’s eternal rest. “It was the King of Demos who ordered the attacks. It was pure chance he would choose this city, but I cannot allow him to get away with it. I promise you, I’ll make him suffer before killing him.”
Silent tears had begun falling down his cheeks, Lotor barely aware of the fact he was crying. He wondered what Allura would think of him, to see him this way, so eager and ready to kill in her name. She’d probably be appalled, the girl hardly the type to crave vengeance. But he couldn’t stop, wouldn’t be able to until he was satisfied. Sometimes he feared he would never be, not even with the death of the king of Demos.
He still felt that overwhelming guilt from time to time, Lotor blaming himself for both his mother and Allura’s deaths. It was a downward spiral, both events tied to each other, Lotor knowing if his mother hadn’t died, Allura wouldn’t have gone into her catatonic state. And then she would have never been sent away, would have never been in this hospital that had been destroyed.
“I’m sorry.” He repeated, and brought his hands to his face, brushing away at the tears. His back had been to the cruiser all this time, Lotor positive that the driver had no idea his charge was crying. He refused to give away the fact with wet eyes, and a broken voice, the prince working to compose himself.
“I’ll be back.” Lotor told the flowers, rising to his feet. “It might be years before we meet again, but the next time I come Demos will be gone.” With that promise he was walking away, forcing himself not to cast one last look at the flowers that marked Allura’s grave. The wind blew harder, stray petals being torn from the flowers, the petals dancing on the breeze.
For one instant he thought he heard the faint echo of Allura’s giggles, Lotor forcing himself to get into the cruiser. He knew it was all his imagination, his mind tormenting him with tricks. “Drive.” He ordered, and the man started up the cruiser, Lotor sinking back against the cushioned seat. He kept his gaze fixed on the ceiling, the prince sick with guilt and upset, and not wanting to see any more of the destroyed city.