Disclaimer: Voltron and everything associated with it belong to World Events Productions. The lyrics to the song "Save Yourself" belong to Stabbing Westward.
Zarcon looked down at the tense figure of his son kneeling in front of his throne with distaste. The boy's mocking humility was a disgrace and no longer tolerable. Something had to be done about this consuming obsession of his or another heir would have to be chosen. After all, Lotor might be his only legitimate heir, the product of a short alliance marriage, but he had plenty of bastard sons. An ambitious bastard without his son's weaknesses could be found to take over the conquests that were the heir's right.
Zarcon cut off the line of thought and rose to his feet, one hand clasping the edge of his royal robe. He turned on his son with an imposing snarl. "Lotor, you are a disgrace to my empire and I will no longer tolerate your impotent failures!"
"Father," Lotor began in an arrogant voice, rising off his knees. His yellow eyes were lit with a feverish glow.
"Silence!" Zarcon bellowed. With a swipe of his scepter, he knocked Lotor off his feet. His son hit the hard floor with a surprised grunt.
The king walked forward and pushed Lotor with his foot until he turned to face him. The fevered light in his eyes had dimmed, replaced by implacable hatred. Zarcon nodded slightly in approval. That was good; the boy was going to need his anger if he was to succeed.
Zarcon smiled coldly. "Since you are my son, I am going to give you one last chance to prove yourself worthy of my throne."
He waited until Lotor turned to regard him with a suspicious, assessing glare. "That…girl," Zarcon continued, imbibing the word with scorn, "is your weakness, your Achilles' heel. I will not tolerate weakness."
Zarcon deliberately turned his back on Lotor, trusting to Hagar to warn him if Lotor so much as twitched. As a guard against her treachery, his eyes flicked momentarily towards a small mirror concealed in the curtains behind the throne. His reputation for omnipotence had been gained using such small tricks. Turning and settling into the throne, he pinned Lotor with his gaze.
"Arus has been a constant thorn in my side. Our inability to defeat that one planet and the five children who defend it has been giving our slave planets hopes for rebellion. I… will… not… tolerate… this." Each word was punctuated with a strike of his scepter on the floor. He noted with satisfaction that Lotor flinched involuntarily from the sound.
"You will leave for Arus tomorrow. You may take whatever forces you deem necessary, but you will be victorious. I will expect news of Arus' defeat and Princess Allura's execution by tomorrow evening."
"But father!" Lotor cried out, jumping to his feet.
"Enough!" Zarcon thundered, rising. "The girl is a living symbol of hope and she will be crushed under the weight of the Doom Empire! If you cannot cure yourself of this ridiculous obsession immediately, then I will kill you now and send one of your half-brothers in your place."
Lotor blinked, then narrowed his eyes. "You wouldn't dare, old man."
In the flash on of an eye, Zarcon retrieved a dagger from the arm of his robe and hurled it at his son. Lotor cried out, staring with shock at the dagger buried to the hilt in his shoulder.
Zarcon strode calmly forward and ripped the dagger out, ignoring his son's pained groan. He wiped the blood on Lotor's tunic, then casually paused with the tip pressed against his throat. "Never forget that I built this empire, my son. I'm more dangerous than you can even imagine. Now make your choice."
Lotor stared back at him, his expression a mixture of rage and fear. "I'll lead the attack tomorrow. I will be victorious."
Zarcon smiled and removed the dagger, replacing it up the sleeve of his robe. "See that you are. You have yet to feel the extent of my wrath. Hagar!" he called, turning back towards his throne.
"Yes, my King?" Hagar queried, appearing in a cloud of smoke at the base of the steps leading to the throne.
"Heal my son. He must be in excellent shape for his imminent victory celebration."
"Yes, sire." The old crone beckoned to Lotor, who rose to follow. His hand twitched towards his injured shoulder before he forced the clenched fist back to his side.
"Take care not to fail me again." Zarcon let the ominous threat ring through the throne room as Lotor descended the steps to Hagar. His son tensed visibly but did not dignify the threat with a response.
Zarcon sank back into his throne. "I'm getting mellow in my old age," he told himself in disgust. He sighed in exasperation and turned his gaze to a painting hanging on the wall at the far end of the throne room. "The boy's just like you, Meiden," he told the painting conversationally. "Always distracted by his raging emotions." He shook his head. "I've given him so many chances, but he still refuses to accept that he will never possess his princess. She is totally incapable of becoming what he needs her to be. Ah, well, it will all be over tomorrow." He allowed himself a smile at the thought, oblivious to the figure watching him talk to his dead wife from the shadow of the doorway, eyes burning red with rage and betrayal.
I know your life is empty
And you hate to face this world alone
So you're searching for an angel
Someone who can make you whole
I cannot save you. I can't even save myself.
Lotor sat alone in the window of his room, staring off into the gloomy mist that surrounded Castle Doom. Not even the light from the distant twinkling stars broke through to bathe the desolate landscape. Nothing natural would ever grow here. Dimly remembered stories from his childhood nurse, stories of a world with forests, streams, and flowers flitted through his mind, only to be dismissed with an impatient gesture. Fairy tales of the once beautiful world now called Doom could do nothing to help him tonight, and the answering melancholy would only serve to take the edge off his anger.
He had dismissed his slave girls and servants the moment he returned, roaring out his anger and brandishing his whip so that fright hastened their retreat. He needed desperately to be alone.
Without taking his eyes from the window, Lotor snaked out an arm and retrieved the wine bottle from the table. He pulled off the stopper and poured the warm liquid down his throat, numbed enough not to wince at the bitter taste. When the bottle was empty, he flung it at the wall, a brief dark smile lighting his face at the loud crash of shattering glass. Before his grin had faded, a new wine bottle had already made its way into his now empty hands.
As he removed the stopper, he sighed and turned back to the window. "Well, my love," he began, lifting the bottle as if in a toast, "you have one last chance. Tomorrow, you'll either accept me as your husband or die as the price for your misguided pride." He laughed then, a sound that held more madness than good humor. "I can't save you this time." He shook his head sorrowfully. "Oh, no. This time, you may have to save us both."
Slaves ran shrieking from Hagar's laboratory into the complete blackness of the Doom night, willing to risk becoming a midnight snack for one of the monstrous robeasts for the chance to escape the horrors unleashed inside the round stone tower. Hagar glared balefully around the destruction of the quickly vacated room, her eyes skipping over the smoking wreckage. The groans of the wounded slaves too slow to escape echoed from the walls.
"Silence!" she rasped, her voice rising in enraged hysteria. "Silence! I need silence to plan my revenge!" The groans continued unabated. Her mouth set in a line of grim determination. Blue fire flared from the tip of the staff gripped tightly in one shriveled hand, cutting a swath of destruction along the cluttered floor. The room filled with agonized choking screams that quickly cut off into a stifling silence. The surviving slaves huddled together in terror as the smell of charred meat permeated the air.
She threw the staff to the floor at her feet and began to pace, eyes darting wildly around the ruins of her lab. "Her," she hissed, claws digging unnoticed into the palms of her hands, "always her. No matter what I do, he'll always go back to his darling Meiden." Her steps quickened until she was practically flying back and forth across the room. "I was much more beautiful than she, once, before I gave myself to him. Before he gave me this face as my reward!"
Enraged beyond reason, she ripped a beaker filled with a green blob of pulsating light from a rack containing experiments in various stages of completion. "You did this to me!" she screamed, hurling the beaker against the wall. Clumps of red and green goo streaked down to the floor, leaving sizzling black tracks to mark their progress down the slick stone wall. The light fractured into a thousand pinpoints and began to spread menacingly through the air. A slave whimpered in mindless fear. The lights began to pulsate madly, descending in a rush towards the cowering slaves. Shrieks rent through the silence once more.
"You'll pay for this." A crackling black and red nimbus of light surrounded Hagar as she dropped to her knees in the center of the lab, oblivious to the carnage all around her. "Oh, yes, I'll make you pay."
Lotor stood on the landing platform and watched the attack ships prepare for take-off, ignoring the pounding in his head. The perpetual gloom that surrounded the Castle was lessening, signaling the arrival of a new day. The air was filled with the heavy vibrations of the waiting spacecraft and the raucous shouts of men who knew deep down that this dawn might be their last.
Lotor stood on the platform in his role as overseer of the mission, heir to the Doom Empire, and watched the soldiers prepare for the execution of his beloved. His mind whirled through endless cycles of grief and hatred, but no hint of his turmoil shone through the long-ago perfected mask of arrogance he adopted in moments such as these. He watched the preparations with hollow eyes as he contemplated an act of high treason against his father's empire.
There was no doubt in Lotor's mind that planet Arus needed to be destroyed. His father was right on that one point. Arus and Voltron were symbols of hope to the many slave planets under his jurisdiction, and his attention had too often been focused on thwarting slave rebellions of late to think otherwise. The Empire must remain strong and independent. He refused to see all his accomplishments turned over to the Drule Empire as spoils of war and tangible proof of his contemptible weakness. As long as he lived, however, Allura was not going to be harmed by any living creature. The very thought was unthinkable. Lotor forgot his composure enough that his fists clenched around his sword until the taut skin over his knuckles paled.
Lotor whirled to face the owner of the arrogant voice, sword drawn and gleaming in the lights of the landing strip. Cossack stumbled involuntarily backward, raising one hand to protect his face. Lotor sighed and put away the sword. "Yes?" The word escaped more as a growl than an actual question.
"The ships are ready to lift off at your command," Cossack informed him, adopting his best version of a diffident voice. Lotor glared at him, forcing another involuntary step back. "Fighting with your father again, are you?"
Lotor reached for the sword, drawing it in one fluid motion. Cossack disappeared before the hiss of steel vanished from the air. "Insolent little toad," Lotor mumbled under his breath, turning ominous eyes back towards the ugly bulk of the castle. His fingers rubbed the new scar on his shoulder unconsciously. "If anything happens to her, father, I'll make you pay." Pulling the impenetrable arrogance back around him like a well-worn cloak, Lotor spun around and strolled towards his battleship, eyes gleaming yellow in the uncertain light.
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