One Good Turn
Up on the cloaked Doom battleship, Cossack was jolted out of a light snooze, complete with feet up on the console, by the sound of a buzzer. "Three unidentified bodies on deck two, Commander Cossack," one of the robots reported in an urgent tone.
"Three?" he exclaimed with surprise as he scrambled to his feet. "What the—?" Deck two was right behind the bridge, and he had only expected Haggar to bring back Lotor, not guests. He raced to the sliding door to investigate and saw Haggar slumped over on the floor gasping for breath in utter exhaustion, a chained and handcuffed Prince Lotor in a Galaxy Alliance prison uniform, and to his shock, Princess Allura. "Woah," he said with wide eyes, and looked over the trio awaiting an explanation.
"Get us out of orbit and back to Doom now," Haggar rasped weakly to the commander. "They saw me leave and they'll pursue."
Immediately Cossack whirled around and shouted back through the door. "You heard her, rust-buckets! Turn on all thrusters and get us out of here, pronto!"
"Yes Commander Cossack," came a unanimous mechanical reply, and a moment later the ship blasted off into the stars bound for Doom.
"Welcome back, Sire, we've missed you," Cossack then said, and bowed to his liege with a wide smile. He did not know what had happened in the base, but if Princess Allura was with them and not struggling or fighting, then he figured it had to be good. He leaned over to help the fallen witch up and the four of them made their way back into the bridge proper. "You okay, Haggar? You look like a robeast's leftovers. Well, you kinda look that way a lot of the time, but you look worse than usual."
The old witch groaned and leaned on the tactless commander's strong bulk. "I told you that teleportation takes a lot out of me, and I didn't expect to transport three bodies." Her voice was barely a whisper.
"Oh yeah, you did say that blipping was a bitch come to think of it," he said with a nod, and then glanced at Allura, who only stood there in silence, watching him with a wary eye. "So, uh, is this a social call or should we have some of the tin-heads in there chain her up or something?" he asked of the prince and witch.
Allura's eyes widened anxiously and she stepped backward, but Lotor straightened in front of her. "No," he said sternly. "You will do nothing of the sort to Allura. She is here of her own free will, isn't she?"
"Commander Cossack, we're being trailed and fired upon by two Alliance ships."
Cossack sighed. Just when he was starting to get a handle on what was going on it figured that they would get attacked. "Then shoot back or something! Drop one of those robeasts Haggar stashed on board on 'em if you need to. Our first priority is getting home. They won't follow us deep into Drule Empire territory." He paused. "Not unless they're really dumb anyway."
His prediction was right; with some return fire and the deployment of a robeast Haggar had brought along for just such an emergency the two ships were soon far more concerned with fighting that off than the escaping Doom ship. As it had turned out, they had made it out of range of Galaxy Garrison's headquarters by the time the news of Lotor's escape, marriage, and subsequent abduction of Princess Allura by the old witch got through the communication channels of the fortress and by then it made more sense for them to try to track the ship than pursue it. Instead they dispatched ships stationed nearest the Doom battleship's path, but luck was on the Doomites' side. There were only two of them and they were no match for the class of battleship that the rescue party had brought. It was fortunate for the pursuers that the battleship was more concerned with flight than a fight; they stood a better chance against the robeast than the firepower of that ship.
After realizing that she could barely walk, Cossack took pity on the exhausted Haggar and picked her up like a sack of potatoes to carry her over to the command chair. "So what happened?" he asked as he flopped her like so much dead weight onto the chair to rest.
I can't decide if I should thank that buffoon or smack him, Haggar thought irritably as she shifted to a more comfortable position in the cushy chair, her backside sore from the rough way Cossack had set her down.
The commander then pulled a blanket from under the console and draped it over the witch. Mildly touched by Cossack's concern, she felt herself leaning more toward expressing the former than the latter, especially when Coba, who had stayed behind with Cossack while she was incognito in the complex, jumped into her lap purring.
"Take my chair and get you some beauty sleep, Haggar. You sure need it!" he then quipped jovially, and patted her on the head.
She took it back. She was definitely going to smack him when she had the energy for it.
Cossack meanwhile awaited Lotor's explanation, and the prince held out his still-bound hands. "Free me of these binds and I'll explain everything."
With a nod Cossack picked up a blaster and fired carefully at point blank range to break the chains that confined his liege, and then sent a robot to get him an energy blade to cut off the wrist and ankle cuffs with and something better to wear than an alliance prison uniform. "Finally," Lotor grumbled, and stretched his freed limbs. The first thing he did was turn to Allura, who narrowed her eyes at him.
"This isn't what I agreed to, Lotor," she informed him with clear anger in her tone.
"I had no idea about any of this myself," he replied.
Allura frowned, but she believed him. Lotor had seemed just as surprised as she was that one of his prison guards turned out to be Haggar in disguise.
"He's telling the truth, Princess," the old witch spoke up from the command chair. "As far as Lotor knew, you were his only chance at escaping his fate. Zarkon forbade us to attack the alliance directly or to act aggressively to secure your release."
"He what?" Lotor growled. That explained why there had been no action until then, no news of any attacks or even retaliations in his honor, until that point.
"Yeah, he has to pay lip service to Commander Hazar and the others kissing his ass over in the First Kingdom. They're doing some peace talks or something with the Galaxy Alliance so the word was spread to the rulers of the kingdoms to not start any incidents, or some bullshit like that," Cossack added with a shrug.
"How convenient for Father to follow the rules now." Lotor was not sure how he felt about the confirmation that his father truly planned to let him die without so much as an avenging retaliation strike. Perhaps he only planned to do that much if they actually killed me…
"Well what you just pulled is certainly an incident," Allura pointed out, her voice breaking into Lotor's thoughts when she turned to face him. "I said you were to leave with me under a legal release to have sanctuary on Arus. This is not what I agreed to when I married you!" She looked over at the monitor that showed them heading farther and farther away from Galaxy Garrison and Arus and frowned.
Cossack's jaw dropped. "Married? You two got married, Sire?"
"Yes," Haggar confirmed. "There's a lot of that going around lately."
"You're telling me," Cossack said with a sardonic snort.
From her seat the old witch then held up the certificate printed by the LAD. "Well I am sorry to disrupt your plans for a happy little life on Arus, Princess, but you had to know that Prince Lotor could never live such a life when you agreed to it. Besides, I'm sure the two of you will spend plenty of time there anyway now that you're married and it's a done deal."
"We had a contract, Lotor," Allura protested, trying to ignore the overt condescending tone of the witch. "You said you would honor your word! I trusted you!"
Lotor finished cutting the shackle off of his left arm with the energy blade that the robot had given him and put a hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "And I won't dishonor it. I'll still insist that your people are treated as you said and go along with what you specified as far as Voltron and the lions go when we return to Doom. Arus will be annexed into the empire in accordance with your wishes."
"But I don't want to be on Doom; I want to be on Arus! That's my home!"
"And you'll be allowed to be there whenever you wish once the details are ironed out," Lotor assured her. "But now that I'm a free man, you can hardly expect me to honor the Alliance's meaningless laws. I'm not their prisoner anymore, my dear. My promises to you on what transpires between our planets are the only ones I'm bound to keep." The arrogant tone in his voice softened and he addressed her with unashamed affection. "With you at my side there is nothing we can't have together, Allura. Think of the opportunities before us!"
"Wow," Cossack remarked as he listened to the exchange between the two of them, taking in the magnitude of what had just happened. He then smiled at the two of them, especially Lotor. He knew how badly Lotor had wanted Allura, and he was glad to see him finally get her, especially after Lotor had nearly gotten himself killed for her. With Allura and Arus secured as their conversation implied and Voltron out of the picture once and for all, he realized that most likely the long Arus war was finally over, and that was cause for celebration. "Congratulations, Sire!"
He then looked at Allura. "And you too, Princess!" He bowed to her with a flourish. "Let me be the first to welcome the crown prince's new bride to planet Doom. Fleet Commander Cossack the Terrible at your service!" He straightened again. "Hope there's no hard feelings over all those attacks and invasions and that chaining you up thing I mentioned before. It was nothing personal. Now that we're all on the same side, I'm sure we can all be friends. I'm really a pretty nice guy when you get to know me." Though Cossack was not exactly thrilled at the concept of buddying up to any alliance type, it was true that he held no personal grudge against the princess any more so than he did any other enemy that had crossed him only in battle, and as long as she did not continue her habit of preaching smarm at him he figured he would not have too much trouble getting used to her. If nothing else, he could warm up to her as a queen more easily than Zarkon's simply because she had never stuffed him in a cosmotron and laughed about it.
It was when Cossack bowed to Allura that Lotor noticed the titanium bracer engraved with a Doom nobility family crest upon his arm—a family crest that was not of the one he had been born into, Aldar'ach, but another of Doom's noble houses. "Cossack," Lotor said with a surprised look of his own, "what's that? Did you get married?" The prince's voice was incredulous.
Flashing him a sheepish smile, Cossack nodded slightly. "Uh, yeah. A lot happened while you were away…"
A wry smile tugged at the edge of Lotor's mouth. "But you once told me you'd never get married. That you'd run headlong into the arena to take on robeasts hand-to-hand first."
"If you'd been set up with some of those nobility chicks my folks tried to push on me, tell me you wouldn't do the same thing, Sire." He shook his head. "Besides, you've never tried arguing with my mother. Like ramming into a stone wall without your helmet, I tell you."
"That's Tonorm'oith's crest," Lotor noted and raised a brow, "but you're a first son, so if you married into another house that means you had to marry above your station…"
"Yeah," Cossack said with a nod. "Lady Kuryaki." He struck a dramatic pose. "Not only happily hitched, but I'm also a high seat now!"
"The Ancient Ones save Doom's nobility," Haggar muttered with a shake of her head, while Lotor burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" Allura asked.
"Lady Kuryaki, that is funny," the prince gasped between peals of laughter.
Cossack did not find it nearly as amusing. "Why is that everyone's reaction? She's not that much older than me!"
"Allura, I'm sure you remember Commander Yurak?" Lotor queried the puzzled princess.
"How could I forget?" she replied. The aforementioned commander had led countless attacks against Arus before he eventually met his end as a robeast under Voltron's blazing sword.
"Lady Kuryaki is," Lotor snickered again, "his mother."
"Cossack is the sort of man that needs a mommy to care for him, you see," Haggar cackled snidely from her seat.
"Blow it out your crystal ball, wart-face," Cossack snapped back at the old witch. "At least unlike some women older than me here that I can mention, my wife is attractive."
Allura took in the exchange between her new husband's rescuers with odd curiosity, unsure of what was appropriate to say or do. The propriety lessons of her youth certainly never covered her current situation. Lotor noticed her shell-shocked look and pulled her close to him. "With all that's happened, you must be overwhelmed, Allura," he said with a note of concern in his still quite smug tone. "We'll sort everything out when we get back to Doom." He smoothed his hand over the hair at the top of her forehead. "After we break the news to my father, we'll retire to my chambers and rest, spend time together," his smile broadened, "make our plans."
Cossack turned back toward the prince. "Speaking of breaking news, Sire, there are some other things going on back home you might want to know."
Still holding the quiet but acquiescent Allura close to him, Lotor eyed his fleet commander with renewed seriousness. "Such as?"
"You know how Haggar said that there's a lot of the marriage thing going around lately?"
"She wasn't talking about me."
The prince looked from Cossack to Haggar, and a stab of dread pierced his otherwise pleasant mood. "Who?" He suddenly remembered Merla's smug declaration that she could not marry him because she had already found her "Prince Charming." But Merla couldn't have married anyone on Doom that would be of any importance to me unless…
"Your father also got hitched," Cossack informed him. "To Merla."
"What?" Lotor's voice came out in almost a roar. He was not sure if it was outrage, insult, anger, dread, or a mixture of all four upon hearing the news that his father had taken a new bride, a young one at that, and one with history with him. Whatever it was, he most certainly did not like it, for a number of reasons, and his hand balled into a fist.
Cossack nodded, making a clearly sympathetic and displeased face as he did so. "Yeah, it took us by surprise too. She was bad enough as queen of the Seventh Kingdom and just visiting ours."
"But she couldn't!" Allura spoke out suddenly. "She wouldn't! She turned good! She was there when we were on the asteroid, with you… she was angry at you for betraying us and not changing like she thought you had!" she said, her voice rising as she looked at Lotor. "She wouldn't go back to Zarkon, not when she's been in talks with the Galaxy Alliance. She…"
"She lied," Cossack pointed out bluntly. "It's not like it's the first time."
"She wouldn't," Allura protested, desperate to believe that she had not been fooled by both parties on that day.
"Maybe she did believe that goodness and light nonsense she went on about at the time, but regardless, she's changed her mind," Haggar interjected from the chair.
"Who knows what the hell she was thinking? All I know is she's Zarkon's queen and we all gotta bow to her." Cossack's tone was more than a little bitter.
"Bow to Merla," Lotor said in a low tone, "we'll see about that." He then looked at Allura and felt a rush of renewed smugness despite the news about Merla. Nice girls don't go for my type indeed, he thought snidely to the remark that the pink-haired queen had once made to him. Placing an arm around the princess' shoulders, Lotor looked at the monitor that showed their course for home and smiled. "Well," he said, straightening to his full height and regal bearing, "it seems that we're in for a very memorable homecoming, aren't we?"
From his side Allura also watched the monitor in pensive silence. By Arus, her thoughts overwhelmed her as she pondered what awaited her not only on Doom but also far beyond, what have I done?
The green, red, and yellow lions had nearly arrived at the Galaxy Garrison complex when an urgent message from the Castle of Lions came in. "Voltron Force, come in! This is the Castle of Lions with an emergency! Over," Coran's distinguished voice, full of panic, came over the airwaves.
"What is it Coran?" Keith asked with alarm.
"Is Zarkon attacking?" Hunk guessed.
"Princess Allura has been abducted," Coran informed them gravely.
"Abducted?" Keith exclaimed.
"I thought she was at the Galaxy Garrison complex," Lance said, a worried note creeping into his voice.
"She was. From what I was told by our contact at headquarters, she was visiting Prince Lotor and—"
Hunk slammed his hand on the panel. "Lotor!"
Pidge's brow furrowed. "But Lotor's a prisoner. Did he escape?"
"How'd he manage that? Security there's tighter than Nanny squished into Pidge's uniform," a puzzled Lance remarked.
A dark look crossed Coran's features. "Haggar the witch. She disguised herself and somehow slipped past their security and teleported him and Princess Allura out with their magic. They did a scan for the ship they presumably escaped on, but it was far out of range by the time they detected it. They already deployed two crafts stationed in the area, but it evaded them."
Keith's eyes narrowed as he straightened determinedly in his seat. "So Zarkon wasn't going to leave Lotor to hang after all. And they took the chance to take Allura too."
"So much for Galaxy Garrison being a safe haven," Lance grumbled. "Makes you feel real good about security."
"I say we go straight to Doom right now and get her back before they hurt her!" Hunk said, already preparing to adjust his coordinates before Keith gave the official word.
"Me too, but wait a sec," Lance said suddenly. "What about the black lion? Did they take that too?"
"No, it's still at Galaxy Garrison," Coran answered.
"Maybe we ought to stop and get it so we have all the lions," Pidge suggested. "Doom's a rough place."
Keith shook his head. "Sorry Pidge, I know it's cramped in here with the two of us and I'd prefer to be in the black lion myself, but there's no time. Hunk's right, Lotor is dangerous. Besides," he frowned, "I don't have the key to it. Allura took it with her when she took the black lion."
"Then it looks like we're on our own," said Hunk. "You want us to gun it, Keith?"
"Fast as we can—to Doom," the Voltron Force leader answered.
Coran nodded somberly on the other side of the view screen. "Good luck, Voltron Force, and please bring her back safely. All of Arus is counting on you."
After passing through the dangerous energy fields that surrounded the dark planet and penetrating the ominous thunderclouds that seemingly always filled its atmosphere the Doom battleship that carried the escaped Lotor, his new bride, and the two that had taken it out to rescue the prince made its landing in the bay. Allura fought back her nervousness as Lotor took her arm and led her out of the ship, and she shivered as she took her first steps as Lotor's bride through Castle Doom, a chill that came more from its aura than its actual temperature, which was rather comfortable.
Some robots were gathered around the ship, and Cossack waved to them unceremoniously. "Check it in and refuel it, tin-heads," he called to them, and fell in step beside Haggar, who was on the left side of Lotor.
A royal guardsman, a member of a small squadron of soldiers separate from the royal fleet that reported directly to Zarkon, approached them. "Prince Lotor!" he gasped upon recognizing the prince of Doom, and bowed, with a curious eye on the Arusian princess at his side. "You've returned! And brought a prisoner?"
"I've brought you your future queen," Lotor informed him arrogantly before demanding, "Where is my father?"
"He is in the throne room, Sire. Actually that's why I'm here. I was told to send Commander Cossack and Haggar to him when they returned."
Allura felt another stab of anxiety when she realized that the meeting with Zarkon, the man who killed her father, who enslaved her people and ravaged Arus, and who was now her father-in-law, was imminent. Haggar, Cossack, and Lotor meanwhile all exchanged looks. "Well then," Lotor said as his blue lips parted into a sly smile and he linked his arm through Allura's, "Let's not keep him waiting… now that we're home."