The night sky of Arus was lit up as though it was midday, thanks in part to the lights from the hundreds of ships currently battling up in the air. Their metallic hides reflected the glow of the laser fire currently being exchanged by both sides, colorful explosions that resembled fireworks occurring whenever a ship’s defensive shield failed it.
Keith felt a grim kind of satisfaction go through him at each explosion, knowing for a fact that so far all the losses had been on the enemy’s side. He fought to keep that knowledge from turning him cocky, the captain knowing that over confidence might make him miscalculate, a situation that could prove fatal for him. So he forced himself to concentrate, body and mind becoming one with his lion, it’s controls a mere extension of his hands.
Laser blast after laser blast was issued out of the lion’s shoulder cannons, Keith picking off enemies one by one. And still more came, Doom trying to overwhelm Arus through sheer force of numbers alone. It left him astonished, Keith knowing he had never witnessed such a huge invasion force before, leaving Keith to wonder if four lions alone could stand up to such power.
At least they hadn’t released a robeast yet. It was small consolation, Keith glancing at his monitors, getting readouts on how black lion was doing. It’s shields were down to eighty-three percent, but it’s speed was still doing an out put of ninety-eight percent. He had been forced to slow down, to avoid collisions with the speeding star cutters, knowing Lance was going even faster. The red lion pilot was quite the dare devil, pulling off hair whitening moves that caused Doom ships to crash into each other as the lion came away without a scratch.
Keith would scold him if he wasn’t so busy fighting his own battles. Green lion and yellow lion were moving even slower than black lion, situated somewhere to the rear of him, the pair ordered to keep an eye on the cruiser that held Princess Allura and Prince Lotor. It was up to them to keep them from getting hit, the captain knowing that in this kind of close quarters, a stray laser blast could be disastrous.
He could hear his pilots talking over the air waves, voices tense as they traded jibes with each other. Lance was bragging on his high score of kills, but even he sounded less than thrilled about the circumstances surrounding this fight. Keith himself was maintaining radio silence, having lost the urge to speak since his last communication with Allura and Lotor.
He refused to think about that now, knowing that if they all survived this battle with Doom, there would be one hell of a reckoning between him and Allura. He’d get her the help she so obviously needed, and if it came down to it, he’d slit Lotor’s throat himself. Lotor simply had to pay for all he had done, especially for his crimes against the princess. Keith was positive once Allura regained her sanity she’d thank him for his actions.
He pushed a button, black lions tail lashing forward, it’s tip spraying ionized fire onto a row of Doom ships. They scattered and flew away, Keith flying through the space they left. More ships approached him, their numbers endless and making this fight seem almost pointless. But he knew if he could get close enough to the flag ship to damage it, it would pull back, taking the fleet with it. It was a tactic that had worked many times in the past, Doom turning tail and running, leaving a robeast behind to distract the Voltron force.
Keith let out a growl of annoyance when another ship appeared directly before him, the captain ready to depress the torpedo button when he realized he was looking at the rear of a Arus Star Class cruiser. Recognition flared to life, the captain realizing it was the craft Lotor and Allura had commandeered from the castle dock. It hovered before him, openly mocking him with it’s nearness, and then like a shot gun, it was zooming ahead, flying over the roof of a star cutter.
Keith hastily disintegrated the star cutter before him with his lasers, eyes tracking the cruiser. A split moment of indecision as he saw the other Doom ships giving the cruiser a wide berth of space, allowing it to get closer and closer to the larger Doom ships.
“Oh no you don’t.” Keith hissed under his breath, and with a jerk of his controls, he was speeding off after Lotor and Allura. He fired off round after round of lasers, taking out the star cutters that tried to get in his way.
“Keith, what are you doing?!” Pidge’s voice, the pilot sounding shocked. “If you keep on firing like that you may hit Allura!”
“Why aren’t you watching them?” Keith demanded, increasing his speed.
“Sorry boss..” Hunk’s turn to speak. “They sorta slipped by us in all the confusion.”
“Save the apologies for after we bring them in.” Keith retorted, black lion zig zagging between clouds and ships. “Right now I want you to concentrate on keeping those Doom ships off my back while I go after our runaway royals!”
“What are you going to do?” asked Pidge as Keith shot off a laser blast that actually hit the cruiser’s failing shield.
“If I have to, I’ll shoot them down personally.” All three of his pilots gasped, shock and horror in their voices.
“Shoot them down?!” demanded Lance, joining the conversation. “Are you nuts?!”
“What do you think will happen if they make it to one of the big ships?” Keith snarled out his question, diving down towards the surface of Arus to chase after the descending cruiser. He watched it bank a hard right, spinning over and over to avoid the fire Keith was purposely shooting their way. It left them with no choice but to open up and return fire, laser slamming into the shield that guard black lion’s front. “I’ll tell you what. They be able to land, and once they are on board we may never get Allura back.”
“You don’t know that!” Lance protested, the others voicing agreement. “We could always get her back…”
“Remember Romelle, and how long it took to rescue her from Doom?” Keith asked, following when the cruiser began flying higher once more. Three star cutters dropped down from the clouds, circling the cruiser, trying to cover it as they fired on Keith. “We tried everything.” He continued, picking off ship after ship. “We couldn’t even save her when we knew she was onboard the flag ship. They still got away from us then. That’s what we risk if we let Allura onboard one of those ships now!”
“All right….so say you take down their ship….then what?” Lance asked. “In the ensuing crash they could die.”
“Not if I time it just right….” Keith retorted. “I’ll take down their shield first, and then pick off their engines till they’re flying on only one cylinder. They’ll have to make their descent, and the trees will cushion their fall.”
“It’s risky trying to hit just the engines.” Pidge spoke up. “You could hit something else, and cause the whole ship to go up in fire.”
“Do you doubt my sniper skills?” Keith asked, and a chorus of nos quickly followed. “Don’t worry guys, I’m handling this. You just take care of those Doom bastards!”
“All right Keith….” Lance said, then added under his breath. “I just hope this doesn’t blow up in all our faces.”
“That’s a bad play on words.” Groaned Hunk.
“Sorry.” An unapologetic Lance said. They continued their chatter, Keith tuning them out as he concentrated on following Lotor and Allura’s ship. It climbed higher now, almost to the first of the Doom transporters. More star cutters tried to cluster around them, laser fire coming from behind black lion as the other three Voltron pilots began fighting them off.
“Thanks guys.” Keith said, lobbing a burst of photon energy at the Arus cruiser. The shield flickered, it’s pale orange glow showing it was still in place but weak. Keith narrowed his eyes, and shot off more energy, concentrating his full attack on the shield protecting the ship. And all the while, the seconds counted out in his head, Keith aware of how close he was cutting it.
“Lance, get ahead of them and ward them off from the transporter!” Keith ordered, still firing away.
“I’m on it chief!” Lance said, and with a burst of speed, the red blur that was red lion speeded ahead to stand guard before the transporter. Keith smirked, watching as the ship veered off course, black lion following quickly as it began speeding desperately towards the next ship. It too was a large transporter, all shiny black metal with blazing red emblems on the side. And behind it was the flag ship of the fleet, maintaining a safe distance from the heat of the battle.
The photons hit the cruiser’s shield, and with a high pitched protesting whine, it died in a flash, leaving the tiny cruiser vulnerable to his ion blasts. He abandoned the photons, choosing the more streamlined ion fire which was perfect for picking off small targets. Keith pulled down a headset from the overhead panel of black lion, letting his eyes peer through it to see the red bulls eye, He began lining it up with where the first engine’s protective metal shielding was, and when he was sure the x was in the right spot, he deployed the ion blasts.
It barreled into the panel, blasting the metal off to reveal the first engine. Another deployment sent three ion blasts into the engine, blasting it to smithereens. The cruiser felt the loss of the engine, the ship suddenly taking an unhealthy lean to the right. It flew at a tilt, more star cutters hurrying downwards, trying to get in the way. Keith ignored them, focusing on firing onto the second engine’s hiding spot, explosions going up all around him in mid air.
It left him blind for a second, Keith hesitating on the trigger. “What’s wrong Keith?” A concerned Lance asked.
“There’s too much going on…Making it difficult to see what I am doing.” Keith admitted, more ships coming towards him. Pidge and Hunk destroyed them before they could get to close to black lion, the blips on his radar disappearing only to reappear as new ones joined the fray.
“Time to play hardball.” Announced Lance, and he began firing off a rapid succession of lasers, taking out some of the new comers. Pidge and Hunk were just as busy, and Keith sighed when there was a brief second of clear sky around the cruiser. It kept it’s erratic flight, no longer trying to weave in and out to shake off the lions, just doing it’s best to maintain a straight course.
Keith licked his lips, and took aim, ions blasting off the panel to reveal the second engine. A star cutter darted in front of him, and Keith swore a blue streak, accidentally letting his next volley of ion blasts fly free. The ship in front of him took damage, one of the lions behind him destroying it the rest of the way. Keith quickly got the cruiser’s second engine and prepared to let loose the ion blast, knowing it would leave it down to only it’s third back up engine.
“Come on…” His fingers were sweaty, Keith pressing down to deploy the ion blast. He watched as the gold energy slammed into the engine, sending up a cloud full of black smoke as it exploded upon contact. He was about to let out a sigh of relief, when another explosion went off, the third engine going up in a blazing fireball. Keith’s mouth dropped open in shock, the man staring in disbelief as he looked at the weapon launcher in his fist.
“Keith!” Lance’s voice, the man angry and shocked. “What did you just do?!”
“It wasn’t me, I swear!” Keith protested, watching as another explosion shook the ship, the star cutters flying about it in erratic patterns. It was beginning to sink and fast, speeding down towards the surface of Arus with nothing to slow it’s fall. Smoke trailed out it’s rear, forcing Keith to fly higher to get out of the blinding black smoke’s path.
“I knew it was too risky to try and take out the engines!” moaned Pidge. “Now they’re gonna crash and it’s all Keith’s fault!”
“It wasn’t me!” Keith repeated, pushing the headset away from him angrily. “Something went wrong….that ship was in for repairs….it must not have been fixed right…” He was babbling excuses, but inwardly he knew he hadn’t triggered the blast on the third engine. So what had? He didn’t know, but was determined to find out.
“What’s it doing?” Hunk asked, and Keith tore his eyes away from the battle to see the ship was still trying to fly it’s straight path, even as the nose started to bend downwards.
“They can’t still be trying to make it to the transporter!” Keith said, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
“They won’t make it.” Pidge said. “At the rate they’re accelerating, it’ll be about five minutes before they crash into the surface.”
“Then let’s focus on getting rid of our unwanted guests in the meantime.” Keith ordered, laser firing on all sides. “I’m heading for the flag ship. Pidge, keep me informed of the damaged ship’s progress. Lance, Hunk, help me with their star cutters.”
“Roger that.” Pidge said, green lion breaking away from the protective formation around black lion. The other two lions kept abreast of black lion, all three battling their hearts out. They fought harder and fiercer than ever, worry and panic for their princess making them wild.
“Incoming!” Lance said, his words followed up with the sound of static. It was the noise of someone hacking into their communication channel, Keith giving a snort of surprise as commander Cossack appeared on his monitor.
“What do you want?” Keith snarled, seeing the unwashed Drule’s features twist into an angry smirk.
“We want you to give up peacefully.” Cossack told him, his voice sounding as though he could barely control his rage.
“Funny, I was just going to ask you to do the same thing.” Keith retorted, concentrating on the fight as he talked to the commander. “Currently your prince is in a precarious position. He’s about to crash land on OUR planet.” A smirk from the captain, Cossack hissing to see it. “That makes him our prisoner by all rights.”
“Ah, but you forget. He has YOUR princess as a bartering chip. Never mind it was you who opened fire on his ship. Are you a complete and total moron?!” Cossack shouted this last one, an angry fist pounding on his commander’s chair. “What were you thinking, firing on that ship?! Have you no concern in your heart for your own princess?!”
“Allura will be fine.” Keith said calmly. “She’ll be a little shaken up and bruised, but will come out of the wreck no worse for wear.” He prayed that that would be true, Keith wishing he was as confidant as he boasted to Cossack.
“They’re on fire, and speeding rapidly towards hard rock, and you think there won’t be serious injury?!” Cossask snapped. “King Zarkon will have your head on a pike for this!”
“He’ll have to catch me first.” Retorted Keith.
“I’ll personally deliver you to him myself.” Swore Cossack, a grim smile on his face. “Push forward.” He wasn’t speaking to Keith anymore, ordering his flight crew to guide the flag ship from it’s safe position behind the second transporter. Keith shrugged, figuring it would make his job easier the sooner the flag ship got into range of the lions.
The flag ship didn’t come quietly, all it’s guns were blazing, shooting lasers towards the lions, not caring if some of the star cutters were hit in the process. Keith’s shield took a massive hit, it’s energy dropping to critical levels as he flew towards the ship. He was firing everything he had, lasers, photons and ions, all in a mad desperate attempt to take out the flag ship.
“Keith!” Pidge’s voice, the boy sounding frantic. “Impact in less than five seconds.”
“Not now Pidge…” Keith said through gritted teeth.
“Three seconds!” Pidge continued. “Two…one…….oh….” That last oh got Keith to take his eyes of Cossack’s ship, catching the tail end of the magnificent explosion that hit the surface of Arus. As one, the Voltron Force, and the Drules aboard the flag ship screamed in horror.
“Damn it….Get some men down on Arus now!” Cossack was screaming, Drules running back and forth in panic behind him. “And get a med unit down there at once. The prince will be in need of their services.”
“Pidge….is there….?” Keith trailed off, unsure what to ask.
“I’m reading no signs of life…” Pidge’s voice was wooden as he looked over the readings his lion gave. “I’m sorry Keith, I don’t think anyone survived.”
“No…” Keith was sure his face had paled of all it’s color, his fingers frozen, his ship no longer attacking. It didn’t matter, the star cutters had stopped firing, and the flag ship was just floating there, Cossack looking as stunned as Keith felt. The captain met the commander’s eyes via the communication screen, and slowly nodded. “Will you allow a cease fire so we can evacuate any survivors?”
“I’m telling you Keith, there is no survivors.”
“Stop saying that Pidge!” Hunk shouted, the sound of a fist hitting the wall accompanying his words.
“All right.” Cossack said to Keith. “If you will allow us to retrieve our prince, even if it’s just his body, I can agree to temporary stop to the fighting.”
“Temporary?” questioned Keith, and Cossack shrugged.
“I don’t have the power to promise you anymore than that.” Keith hesitated, and Cossack quickly added this. “Hurry captain. The longer we wait, the less chance for saving even their bodies remains.”
“All right….” Keith said. “Temporary it is.” Cossack nodded at him, turning away from the view screen. Dully, Keith did an about face, causing black lion to cut through the sky as it did a dive towards the surface of planet Arus. Lance and Hunk were following close behind, the three lions out racing the star cutters that were scrambling to reach the surface.
Green lion was the first to arrive at the scene of the wreckage, using it’s wind blasts to put out the fire. It wasn’t as handy as blue lion’s water cannon, but without the princess there was no one to fly blue lion. A sobering thought, Keith wondering how long it would take to find someone to pilot blue lion in Allura’s stead. Probably longer than it would take Doom time to mount another attack on Arus.
~Please be alive.~ Keith begged, as he flew closer to the wreck. The wind blasts had diminished the flames to tiny embers that burned and crackled, allowing Keith to see the ship was broken into several halves. The cock pit’s wind shield was splintered into a million pieces of glass, some thick shards that would have surely lacerated the pilot upon impact.
Most of the gray metal was charred, an ugly black husk that still had smoke coming off it. The castle of lion symbols had been melted off, and Keith knew then Pidge was right. There would be no survivors. They would have been burnt to a crisp, with little to no remains to be found. His eyes watered, and he set black lion down on the ground next to green lion. Pidge had already exited his lion, standing near the wreckage, with a life scanner in hand.
Keith quickly climbed out of black lion, and took the leap to the ground. “Anything?”
“No, nothing.” A dejected Pidge said. “They didn’t even try to get to the emergency life pod. Why?”
“I don’t know Pidge.” Keith sighed. “Maybe they thought they could make the landing without damage…”
“Or maybe they didn’t want to live without each other.” Hunk said, voice coming over Pidge’s communicator. Keith flinched at the implication, not wanting to think that perhaps the pair had truly loved each other to the point of wanting to die together rather than be separated.
“What do we do now Keith?” Pidge wanted to know, looking at the captain. Keith sighed, and looked up at the sky. Red lion was making it’s landing preparations, yellow lion close behind it. In the distance Keith could see the first of the Doom ships approaching, ready to do the somber task of checking to see if there was any remains left of their prince.
“I honestly don’t know Pidge.” Keith said, an instant before one lone tear slipped down his cheek.