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An Abundance of Lotors

Chapter Text

An Abundance of Lotors

 

Infinite power, unceasing pain. The two merged into one, expanding until they filled his entire being. They blocked out the crackling sizzle of the Sincline mech’s instrument panels shattering around him. The stinging stench of ozone as whips of iridescent lightning scorched his skin and hair. The rupturing strain on his vocal cords from the howl of mad triumph pouring out of his throat.

If he could reach Voltron it would all stop. The scalding power erupting from his skin, his warring Galra and Altaen natures rending him in half, the blood-soaked memories of everything he had done to arrive at this moment—all of it stop.

He just needed it to stop.

And, in a baptism of pure quintessence and magenta lightning, his prayers received an answer. The universe, including worldly pain and terror, fell away into blue-white oblivion. The last sound made by Emperor Lotor, only son of Zarkon and Honerva, was a sigh of relief.

-

“No, we can’t just leave him!”

That voice. He knew it once, long ago. It promised warmth and light…but also rejection and darkness. He hesitated, caught between pulling away and being drawn in.

“Lotor’s made his choice, Allura.”

He knew that one as well. More important, the names it spoke. They began to pry his awareness from the safety of its shell in oblivion. Memories seeped in against his will.

Lotor and Allura…Pleas for peace and reason traded across a cell’s forcefield and centuries of warfare. Awestruck silence shared side by side in the hallowed halls of their ancestors. Hands of smooth brown and strong lavender clasped. Warm lips sealed in a disclosure of emotion and ambition. A room full of eyes reflecting disgust and outrage. Her eyes, brimming with betrayal. Lotor and Allura. Lotor and…

Allura!” He sprang to a sitting position, pulse hammering in his temples. Casting his muddled senses every which way, Lotor searched for any sign of the Altean princess.

Nothing. Only gauzy veils of clouds drifting across a violet sky that stretched for infinity each direction. Yes, only.

With a wince, Lotor tottered to his feet. No sharp pains to indicate injury, just stiff joints and aching muscles, like he’d slept in the pilot’s seat. Not to mention a mind turned inside out. Where in the name of the ancients was he? Oriande? No…this place didn’t radiate the same sense of alchemical power, of potential. Its energy read as serene, meditative, almost lulling. Besides, there wasn’t mystical fog all over the place. Frowning, Lotor dropped his gaze.

It took half a tick to realize what a mistake that was.

Whatever he stood on reflected the sky so faithfully that he swore he stood on nothing but miles of empty air with the clouds far below. Lotor’s stomach did a backflip. He wobbled as the phantom sensation of freefall gripped him, dissolving his balance. Taking deep, slow breaths he squeezed his eyes shut.

Right. No looking for loose change on the ground.

Master of his senses once more, Lotor opened his eyes and stared out into the middle distance. Barren. Not a single landscape feature or bit of difference to break the monotony. He turned on his heel ninety degrees (and simultaneously banished thoughts of the mirror-like image under his boots shattering and letting him drop to who-knew-where). Same story to report there. Another turn. Another identical result. Repeat. His mouth twitched with a repressed snarl.

All right. Fine. He’d been in worse situations before, surely. For instance, that time when…wait, no. Narti’s companion Kova had found him before the girders had given way. Then what about when Acxa had…damn it, no! That had worked out as well and, worse, in large part thanks to her being rescued by two wet-behind-the-ears paladins in the form of Keith and Hunk.

Lotor grimaced at the bland horizon. Who was he trying to fool aside from himself? He’d been forced to kill Narti, Acxa and his two remaining generals had abandoned him, and his attempts to revolutionize intergalactic history had gone up in quintessence-fueled flames.

To top it off, he was dead. Or near enough at any rate.

The only thing he could scrounge up gratitude for was the fact he hadn’t been forced into some spiritual tribunal with the specter of Zarkon or anyone else who’d fallen to his superior skills serving as key witnesses. On the other hand, that would have been more engaging than loitering in a cloudy purgatory. While no sense of hunger, thirst, or fatigue plagued him—not yet—he couldn’t imagine lingering in this place forever.

Perhaps that was the idea.

All his ambition, his curiosity, his drive to explore the boundaries of possibility…left to rot in an eternal state of ennui. A fitting sentence, some would think. Lotor clenched his jaw tight enough to ache. This was Romelle and her brother’s fault. They’d ruined everything. Years of painstaking research, the sacrifice of scores of test subjects, his life’s work, and Allura…gone. All because two children were too selfish to understand the stakes and couldn’t keep their mouths shut.

He was so mired in resentment he didn’t notice it at first. When it finally caught his eye, he froze.

A silhouette shimmered in the distance. A figure, coming his way. All inflamed thoughts cooled and formed into sharp focus in Lotor’s mind. So. Not destined to wither alone after all. Something warm yet painful kindled in his chest. What if…Could Allura have come in search of him despite the other paladins’ protests? She had the alchemical knowledge and power. None could have stopped her if she wanted to. Pulse driven by fresh purpose, Lotor headed straight for the distant sight of hope at a pace just under a run.

At the first sight of long white hair he almost tripped over his own feet. He surged into a desperate sprint before his brain caught up with him a dobosh later.

White hair, yes, but it hung over shoulders much too broad to belong to Allura. The height was off as well—of Galran proportions almost. Blue skin confirmed the notion. Lotor’s pace flagged until his feet came to a scuffling halt. The figure, he noticed, also stopped. A mirage? He might have believed it if not for being close enough to make out the other’s attire. Blue tunic and pants matching the skin with a black collar and kilt about the shoulders and hips respectively. And…was that red fringing? How quaintly archaic. It almost could have been a Galran military uniform if it weren’t so impractical and tacky.

The figure, apparently having been busy staring too, resumed walking first. Putting his own hesitation aside, Lotor did likewise with nearly as much vigor as before. While it wasn’t Allura, it was someone and they’d surely have a tale about how they had wound up in such a place. The more data he had the better his odds of doing something about the situation.

Fifty paces…one hundred…two fifty…then a deluge of speculation and dread as he and the stranger slowly circled one another, both staying well out of kicking or stabbing range. A Galran half-breed, just as he was. The softened features left little doubt about that. What caused trepidation and excitement to wrestle in his stomach was the other’s pale hair and glinting golden eyes. The latter sported feline pupils that dilated with the same range of emotions playing havoc inside of him. Though he couldn’t identify why, the shape of them reminded Lotor of his father. The hair, however, so like his own…could this stranger be of Altean blood as well? No markings showed on his wary face, but none had revealed themselves on Lotor’s either until he’d finally discovered Oriande.

In the end, he had only one way of knowing.

Lotor came to a stop, prompting the other man to copy him. Making no sudden movements, he placed one fist over his chest.

Vrepit Sa.

In reply, the stranger raised one white brow and stared as if Lotor had just suggested he dunk his head in a bowl of food goo. Right. Clearly, another approach was warranted.

“Greetings, friend,” he tried again, turning his palms up in the universal sign of truce. “I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to see another person.”

That got the reaction Lotor had been waiting for and more besides. Accustomed to reading people, he didn’t miss the relief that eased the suspicious tension on the stranger’s face for a tick. The man’s expression hardened again in the next instant.

“The pleasure’s all yours then.” His voice oozed a wry arrogance. “Who are you and what are you doing in this strange place with me?”

“I could ask you the same thing…but in the interest of not wasting energy on bickering I wound up here because I was trapped in the quintessence field. I’m—”

“The what?

Lotor made himself take a deep, even breath. “Quintessence field. A plane from which pure, limitless energy can be harvested?”

He may as well have been trying to explain advanced alchemical engineering to Zethrid and Ezor for all the recognition that got him. Just as he started to wonder whether an eternity alone might not have been the better option the stranger shrugged.

“Quintessence you say? I’ve never heard of such a thing in any of the systems or galaxies I’ve campaigned in. We use lazon as our energy source on Doom.”

Lotor’s turn to stare had finally come. What kind of place would earn such a name? The kind where people believed fringing and skull belt buckles were socially acceptable, apparently. “How interesting,” he replied in a tone that implied otherwise. “In all my travels I’ve never heard of lazon or a location by that name. Perhaps we could exchange stories of how we both came to be here, Sir…?”

“Prince,” the stranger corrected him with a toss of the head that, admittedly, was almost regal. “I am Lotor, Crown Prince of Doom and only son of King Zarkon.”

Chapter Text

The news didn’t turn his mind completely upside down, to Lotor’s credit. After all, alternate universes and parallel realms had tied into much of his alchemy- and quintessence-related research. Still, meeting another version of himself in a purgatory dimension hadn’t even made it onto his list of expectations, nevermind the bottom. Stringing his scattered thoughts back together, he dug a finger into one pointed ear. Though sure nothing had gone wrong with his hearing, it paid to be sure. “Forgive me. I thought you said your name was Lotor.”

Smirking, the other man rested his fists on his hips—like one of the speakers from those insufferable SHRED Talks Ezor had loved. But they taught me all sorts of Galran life hacks when I was growing up, she’d whined when Acxa had gotten fed up as well and made her shut the feed off. How to be your best conquering self, choosing weapons that fit your personality type, balancing personal life and military superiority…I wouldn’t be half the Galra I am today without them! To which Acxa had shot back, We’d all be half the Galra we are today regardless, thanks to our parents. The resulting silence had been only slightly more bearable than listening to asinine lectures.

“I did,” confirmed the other, dispelling the past with the present. “Obviously you’ve heard of my greatness or you wouldn’t be gawking with such awe.”

Wherever this version of himself hailed from, it apparently lacked tact and class as much as quintessence. He arched one brow. “I am familiar with you, in a manner of speaking. We’re closer than you realize.” More than was preferable maybe.

His alternate version’s face squinched up in mingled curiosity and scrutiny. “Are you from the Supremacy then? Perhaps one of Viceroy Throk’s lackeys?”

Viceroy Throk? This other universe had to be topsy-turvy indeed to allow reality to bend that far.

“Er, no. How shall I put this…” Lotor tapped his chin a moment. “Ah, well. You seem like a direct person, so I’ll come straight out with it then. Allow me to introduce myself, Your Highness. I am Emperor Lotor of the Galra Empire. Also the only son of Zarkon."

His double threw back his head and laughed. Lotor couldn’t blame him for it, no more than he could help noticing what an open, easy target it made him. Not everyone had been fortunate enough to learn Altaen alchemical secrets or had the intelligence required to teach themselves bleeding-edge scientific theory. In other words, this was going to take a little convincing.

“Do you have a Princess Allura in your universe?”

The laughter died. Those yellow eyes, so Galra, fixed on him with predatory intensity.

“What do you know of Princess Allura?” Though the other man’s tone aimed for scorn, a tremor knocked it off course.

“I know that her father was King Alfor. That my own father destroyed him as well as Allura’s planet.” It became a struggle to keep his own voice neutral. “I know that she pilots the Blue Lion. That she’s powerful, brave, intelligent, and entirely too humble about it.” Not to mention she’d been willing to share all of those qualities with him before that ignorant dissenter had opened her mouth and everything had been taken from him. Just as it always was.

The prince’s eyes had gone wide and glassy, pupils eating up their golden color, as he reexamined Lotor’s features. The lavender-blue skin, the human-soft mold of the bones beneath, the white hair that could be as unruly as it was glorious at times. Features they shared beyond dispute. The other man’s chest rose and fell a little too fast and shallow to be healthy. Good. He’d begun to understand. Lotor idly wondered what would happen if his alternate self were to faint and crash to the mirror-like ground.

“H-How…” The other man paused to swallow his stutter and start again. “How is this possible?”

“All things become possible when universes are infinite. Including, I have to believe, escape from one’s fate.”

For ticks that stretched on like phoebs the other Lotor remained quiet, brimstone-yellow gaze turned inward. Perhaps beneath the layers of brash arrogance lurked a mind after all.

“Did you die as well?” he finally murmured. “Is that why we’re here, in this place together?”

Lotor stared up at the serene, indifferent sky while he considered. “Death is the ‘how’, certainly. As to the ‘why’ part of the equation…that remains to be discovered.”

“Was it that Swede son of a bitch, Sven, who got you?”

He cocked his head, interest no longer feigned. “Who is Sven?”

“The former pilot of Blue Lion, before the princess joined. Tall, dark hair and eyes, sounds like a certain Muppet chef. Haggar—”

To his shame, Lotor couldn’t stop his sharp inhale. “Zarkon’s witch? She exists in your reality?”

His reaction invoked puzzlement. “Yes. Though her first loyalty is to Father she’s proven somewhat useful in my own plans. Particularly where capturing Allura for my bride has been concerned.”

He ruthlessly tore out the choking, thorny tendrils of jealousy and betrayal sprouting in his thoughts. Now was definitely not the time to reflect on how hard he’d fought to win Allura’s trust. Nor how quickly she’d retracted it on the words of a stranger. “You said your reality doesn’t possess knowledge of quintessence? You rely on something called lazon?”

The other him shrugged. “Unless your quintessence is our mineral under a different name.”

“Ah. That’s a no then. What does this lazon mineral do for you exactly?”

“It powers all our tech and weapons. Ships, robeasts, guns, warp capabilities—everything.” The other’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you so interested?”

A thin parody of a smile twisted Lotor’s lips. “Because quintessence, which also powers all of our tech, apparently drives one mad with overexposure. An alternative source of fuel would have been a godsend.”

“Why use something that damned dangerous in the first place?”

Rubbing his temple, he sighed. “Because the Galra homeworld, Daibazaal, was destroyed, leaving the empire dependent on quintessence to survive. We conquered much of the universe just to harvest more, and as the empire grew so did its energy needs. It was an unsustainable way of life. I had nearly perfected a solution to the problem when…certain factors threw a wrench into the works.”

Brow furrowed, his alternate self began to pace in aimless circles and lines. “This is all too strange. I don’t understand how any of this can be happening. Two Lotors? Two Zarkons and Haggars? Two Voltrons? It’s unfair.” He halted and whirled around to face Lotor again. “Did your Allura reject you for that miserable captain in the go-go boots? That Keith bastard?”

A jagged shard of ice burrowed into his heart, but he refused to acknowledge the pain beyond a slight, snarling curl of his upper lip. “She did, though not for Keith, no. I’m quite sure the Black Paladin’s affections lie elsewhere where I come from.”

The prince cocked his head, quite lost. “With who? Princess Romelle?”

From saboteur to princess…would wonders never cease? “Try the Red Paladin. Lance.”

That unhinged his doppelganger’s jaw. “Wha…the pointy-chinned one?”

“The same.”

“Weird…”

Lotor fluttered his hands. “All unconfirmed speculation and irrelevant besides. What matters is finding some common point of reference that might provide us a clue on how to free ourselves from this realm. Knowledge from yet another reality adjacent to ours would be an even bigger help.”

“And just how the hell are we supposed to get information like that? Divine it from these damned clouds? Go into a mystic trance?”

Lotor pointed to the horizon beyond the other man’s shoulder—to what he’d spotted while his alternate self had been busy pacing. “We could, I suspect, ask him.”

Turning, the prince’s pupils went wide as he finally saw what—or rather, who—was approaching.

Long white hair. Blue skin. Yellow, feline eyes. Fringing.

A third Lotor had arrived to make them a proper crowd.