The ground was so close, teasing Keith with it’s nearness, calling him to plant his feet on it’s lush soil. But the irony was that he couldn’t! To both the left and right of him stood the cliff tops, while directly beneath him was a tumultuous drop. One that could end his life in several, sickening ways. Only the robeast kept him from falling–the young captain had never thought he would be grateful to one of Hagger’s creations, but in this one instant he was. Never mind it was the monster’s fault he was currently in this sticky predicament!
Where was he? That’s the interesting thing. It wasn’t a wholly new experience to be caught in a robeast’s grasp. However, all those other times he had been inside Black Lion, protected by it’s armor shell. Not hung in some giant fist, suspended in the air, his legs dangling, his arms made immobile, as his over sized captor carried him almost gentile like towards the castle.
And I can’t believe not minutes ago I was actually complaining about the long walk ahead of me!
thought a grim faced Keith. What had seem like an endless trek was quickly nearing it’s end. The robeast, while not as fast as one of the lions, still had speed on it’s side, it’s long stride covering many yards with each step it took. All too soon they would reach the Castle of Lions, and Keith shuddered to think what would happen then. The awful pit in his stomach seemed to echo his fear, his overactive imagination whispering to him that he might very literally be knocking on the castle walls.
“I have to do something!” cried Keith in protest. He frantically began twisting his body from side to side. “Got to get free…” A whimper escaped his lips as his thigh rubbed against his right hand, the broken bones shooting pains all the way up his arm.
“DAMN IT!!” Keith said, panting slightly. “Come on Keith, you can do this! You’ve suffered worse injuries and survived…” Bracing himself, he turned in the beast’s hands, pulling some of the pressure off his right arm.
“You’ve been trained by some of the best in Garrison…” Keith continued to sing his own praises in an attempt to keep himself motivated, and take his mind off the pain. “Awarded high honors by the people of Arus…” His left arm moved a little, sliding up. “Saved thousands of lost souls all over the galaxy.” He chuckled lightly. “With a minimum of property damage…” People were never grateful when their saviors accidentally smashed down their homes. The captain’s laughter stopped as he was hit with a flash of wild hope, the excitement caused from his fingers brushing against something–his com unit in his pant’s pocket. YES!
“You’re the pilot of Black Lion…” He managed to maneuver his hand into his pocket, fingers closing around the device. “Not to mention Captain of the Voltron Force…” More shifting and he got his elbow free. “And according to Nanny and Coran you are the princess’ chosen champion!” With a triumphant yell, he got his left arm completely free.
It was at that exact moment, the robeast came to a stop. It let out a low growl, head moving from left to right. “Uh-oh…” Keith said in a small voice, fearing his shouts had finally gotten the creature’s attention.
Another low rumble came out of it’s throat, and it’s hands started to move. Both were brought up, and Keith shook with fear as he neared the beast’s mouth, getting a up close look at it’s many rows of sharp teeth. But instead of being dumped into it’s maw, the arms straightened out, the young captain now being aimed at the castle. The leaf like fingers of his captor trembled, and Keith let out a cry of fear, throwing his left arm over the side of one, debating if he should drop the com unit and scrabble for better purchase with his fingers.
The hands began to open, unfurling a like a flower, Keith sliding in it’s slick, wet with vomit grip. Now his glances at the ground to the side of him was not filled with longingly, but desperation. Held at this vantage point, it was no longer a simple matter of jumping to freedom. He could very well miss…tumbling down, all the way to the bottom of the ravine. If he was incredibly lucky–which the young captain did not feel he was at that moment–he might plunge into the river, and somehow avoid getting stepped on by the robeast.
Luckily the captain needn’t have wasted any brain cells on debating what he should do next. The robeast suddenly remembered it’s passenger–perhaps having a little witchy assistance in jogging it’s memory–and the hand holding Keith quickly tightened about him.
The other, however, opened completely, focused in on the castle. Throwing back it’s head, it issued a deafening roar, before sucking more energy out of the castle. Whispering thanks to his God, Keith somehow managed to not give in to hysterical giggles over his situation. Taking in a few more deep breaths, he managed to hold onto his composure, putting the com unit to his mouth. Using his teeth, he pulled out the attenae, praying the little device would be strong enough to send a signal to the castle.
Taking the com unit in his hand again, he then used his tongue to punch in the castle’s frequency. He stared intently at the small LCD screen, watching as it filled up with static. “Come on…come on…!”
A very relieved smile appeared on the captain’s face as he heard faint voices. Distorted, broken words shouted out of his com unit. “Castle Control this is Captain Akira! Do you read me?” More jumble words. “I repeat, this is Captain Akira! Coran? Lance? Anyone!?”
Hopeful at what he thought may be his name, he shouted, “YES! It’s me! Keith!”
“Keith, can you hear me?” Some of the words were still a bit jumbled, but the voice was a lot clearer now. As was the picture on the screen, at last taking form. A face appeared, grinning up at him. Even colored in hues of yellow and green, it was unmistakable to not know who it was.
“Lance!” Keith wilted in relief. “Boy are you a sight for sore eyes!”
“I’ll bet.” Lance winced, taking a good look at Keith’s very pale face. “Although it’s not your eyes that look like they’ve been put through the ringer.” The brown haired man felt a flash of anger surge through him. “Who used you like you were their own personal punching bag?”
“It’s…it’s not important!” snapped Keith, still fuzzy on the details of how he had gotten hurt. Later on, when his memory completely returned, the young captain would be very embarrassed to learn had had been worked over by Lotor–AGAIN! “There are other more pressing issues at hand…”
“Yes.” agreed Lance. “For one thing…” He suddenly shrank in size, as the tiny screen filled up with two more people. They were too small to make out any distinguishing features, though the voices were instantly recognizable.
“Keith, how have you managed to get around the power barrier?” demanded Pidge.
“I…I don’t know…” admitted Keith. “I thought maybe something happened while I was unconscious.”
“No…” Pidge shook his head, and in the back ground Hunk was heard to mutter, “You were unconscious?”
“No change here…we’re still suffering a massive brown out on all levels.” reported Pidge.
“We were shocked when the viewscreen suddenly came on all by itself.” addded Hunk.
“Weird…” Keith frowned, and looked over his shoulder at the robeast. It was still sucking out power from the castle. “Could it be…I’m tapping directly into the robeast’s energy reserves…”
“To do that you’d have to be really close.” Pidge replied, causing Keith to realize he had spoken that thought out loud.
“How close?” asked Lance. “Would we get power back once that monster reaches the castle?”
“Yes!” Hunk said, very excited. “Then we’d be able to launch the lions!”
“No…” Pidge was frowning, shaking his head. “It wouldn’t work like that…the lions would die down as soon as we flew out of range…”
“Well what is the range?” asked Lance.
“I meant it when I said extremely close…like touching close.” clarified the Green Pilot. “I’m almost positive that is the only way.”
“Well, maybe the boy genius is wrong for once.” Lance said hopefully.
“No…Pidge is correct.” Keith let out a deep sigh, realizing he would have to reveal his latest predicament. “I am currently…resting…”
“Resting?” demand Lance. “Where?!”
“At a time like this?” Hunk frowned. He had never thought he’d live to see the day when Keith would be slacking off while on the job.
“Um…it’s a forced rest…for I’m…I’m in one of the monster’s hands…” There was silence for a moment, before Lance regained the use of his vocal skills. “Care to enlighten us on how you managed that, o’ fearless leader.” There was definitely a teasing edge in his voice.
“Not really…” Keith said, his cheeks starting to pinken.
“Let me put it another way captain…” Lance sounded like he was enjoying this immensely. “Can you get DOWN from the robeast?”
“…no…” Keith mumbled. “I’m uh…I’m it’s…prisoner…” What came next was not wholly unexpected. His three friends burst into uproarious laughter, cackling like hyenas, while Keith blushed bright red in embarrassment. “Are you guys finished?!” More laughter was his answer. “Is anyone else there?! Someone I can talk sense to?!” He demanded angrily. “Coran? Nanny?” He asked rather helplessly. “How about Allura?” He was sure the princess wouldn’t laugh at him. She would be the voice of reason, showing sympathy over the situation he had gotten himself into. “I want to speak to the Princess!”
The young woman’s name seemed to have a sobering effect on the trio–almost. A stray giggle or two still managed to trickle out of their mouths. “The princess?” repeated Hunk. “She’s uh…not here right now.”
“Then where is she?!” demanded Keith. The three pilots hesitated to tell their captain exactly where the Arusian Princess had disappeared too. He would surely disapprove. “In her bedroom? Or perhaps getting a snack in the kitchen?”
“Um…no…” Pidge said quietly. He turned to look at Lance, and hissed a whisper, “You tell him!”
“You guys!” Keith shouted, gripping the tiny com unit tightly in his hands. “Someone better tell me. As your leader, I ORDER you to do it!”
“Sounding a little like Prince Lotor there, ain’t you buddy.” Lance said.
“Just kidding, just kidding!” Shooting an annoyed glance at Hunk and Pidge, the pilot of Blue Lion took a deep breath. “Allura…she’s not in the castle. OR in the gardens. She left…” Lance explained. “She went out looking for you…”
“WHAT?!” screamed Keith, his shock was too great, his fingers going numb, and this time the com unit fell. He missed out on hearing Lance’s hurried explanation of how the princess had gone out to help him take down the robeast. Instead the small device went straight down, wind whistling as it sped like a missile to crash open against the rocky ground by the robeast’s toes.
They had been walking in silence for a while now, neither not knowing what to say to each other. Lotor was still too mortified over his clone’s recent behavior. Especially over what it had tried to do to Allura. He thought she was upset too, upset at him, and that’s why she was silent. The young princess WAS upset, but not at Lotor. She was actually handling the clone’s recent attack better than the Dark Prince of Doom, instead worrying about other things. Important things–feelings…Mainly, she didn’t know what to do in a situation like this! Lotor had once again professed his love to her, but on top of that…for the first time ever, she really believed he meant what he said. What other reason could he have for vowing he would get her home, and then leave her alone–FOREVER–if that was what she wished? Love was supposed to make one unselfish, and Allura had a feeling Lotor could make no greater sacrifice then to stay away from her.
She wasn’t sure what to say or do. How do you respond to one who loves you? Nanny and Coran would be no help, nor would Keith and the other guys. They would just try to drive the point home that “Lotor was evil and thus she should hate him, no questions asked.” But she couldn’t hate him, and the one thing she was absolutely sure was she did not want him keeping that promise. The promise of leaving her. Allura could not begin to imagine living a life without Lotor playing some part in it. Now if only she could figure out how big a part she wanted for him, and how to find the right words–the courage to tell him to STAY.
Taking a deep breath, she parted her lips. “Lotor, I…”
He tensed suddenly, coming to a stop. “Shh!!”
“What is it?” Allura asked, annoyed at being interrupted. She saw Lotor turn, looking about their surroundings. “Is it the clone?” She asked fearfully, her eyes also darting about looking for signs of intruders.
“I’m not sure…” Lotor’s hand reach out, taking hold of her arm. “Or rather…if it is him, he’s not alone…” He pulled her behind him, prepared to use himself as a shield. Allura couldn’t see or hear anyone, but she trusted his instincts. He slowly backed up, as did she, both their bodies tightly wound up with nervous energy.
A twig snapped, and Allura gasped. “How many?”
“Three…maybe four…” Lotor told her. “Prepare to move on my say so…”
“Yes…” agreed Allura, licking her lips nervously.
“NOW!” Lotor shouted, shoving her towards the bushes. Half stumbling, she dove into them, Lotor a few steps behind her. She heard him curse, and then he landed in a crouch next to her, just getting under cover when the men that had been stalking came bursting into sight, guns drawn.
The princess cautiously poked her head out, letting out a startled scream as she narrowly avoided getting shot in the face. They’re shooting at us–at ME!! She thought indignantly, as Lotor snatched her back into the bushes.
“What do you think they are doing?!” hissed Lotor, pushing her flat on her back.
“I…I just wanted to see how many were out there…” Her heart was beating wildly, and it wasn’t because of the danger they were in. The handsome Prince of Doom was currently straddling her body, hunched on top of her, alternating from frowning down at her, to glaring at the men by the bushes.
“Hmph…” Lotor let go of her arms, but still stayed on top of her. “I suppose they already knew we were here…but you just helped to confirm it…”
“So how many are there?” Lotor asked, ignoring her apology.
“Wha…um three…” Allura replied, feeling foolish, “And you’re clone isn’t out there.” She wouldn’t have missed seeing someone who looked like Lotor! “And uh…they’re Drule…”
Lotor let out an angry hiss of air. He figured they couldn’t have been Allura’s soldiers since they fired on her, but still…it was shocking to think his own men would open fire on HIM. And why would they attack Allura? They were supposed to know better! Unless…Lotor scowled, hoping his suspicions would prove false.
He glanced down at her, and gave her a smile, attempting to reassure her. “So the clone is not out there, eh? So much the better for us. Three against two…not bad odds…IF we can get their guns away.”
“Yeah…but how?” asked Allura, wishing she had gone back to retrieve her lost pistol.
“I may have an idea…” Lotor said, leaning forward to whisper it into her ears. The young princess had a hard time focusing on his words, all to aware of his body pressing down on hers. She could feel every muscle, and was sorely tempted to caress his bare chest. His hair had spread out across his back like a white cape, a few strands brushing against her face, tickling her nose.
Her hand was moving, almost of it’s own accord, to stroke the back of his head, when he suddenly pulled back. “Got it?”
Blushing, she nodded rapidly, pulling her hand away as though she had been burned.
“Good, then go!” He got off her, crawling off to the right. Allura just lay there for a few seconds more, staring up into the sky, before she finally moved. She crawled off to the left, making sure to keep hidden behind bushes and trees, as she searched out a suitable sized branch.
“Men, stand down!” She heard Lotor order, cautiously stepping out from behind a tree. He boldly approached the three Drule soldiers, arms down by his side, appearing relaxed and at ease. But ever ready to unsheathe his sword at the slightest sign of trouble.
“Not one more step Lo–impostor!” hissed one, all three aiming their guns at him.
“Impostor?” Lotor arched an eyebrow, looking surprised. Inwardly he was fuming. Oh Hagger! You can’t even tell the difference between me and my clone?! “But it is I, your Prince. The future ruler of Doom.”
“Don’t think you can fool us with your words!” hissed one of the men, taking the safety off his gun.
“Apparently not…” murmured Lotor, thinking perhaps he had been the fool after all. Maybe Zarkon and Hagger had indeed decided to go through with the plan of replacing him with his clone. If that was their game, he wouldn’t let them go through with it. Not without a fight. His eyes narrowed, his face taking on an incensed look of rage that frightened the men.
“He’s going to attack!” One screamed, prematurely shooting off his gun.
Lotor cursed, and dodged the laser blast, getting a tree between him and the men. “You would shoot me without fair trial?!”
“It’s not our job to think.” One said, glaring at the shooter. “We just follow orders.”
“And then, what is your orders?” asked Lotor. “To kill me, or bring me back alive? If it’s the latter, I will go with you.”
Allura stifled a gasp of protest. Lotor surrendering?! She couldn’t believe it. Actually she could…he would do that, just to prevent the soldiers from finding her! That idiot!
“It doesn’t matter.” shrugged the apparent leader of the guards. “Hagger said she can examine your body just as easily if you were a corpse.”
“I see we can’t settle this peacefully then.” Lotor said chuckling.
“No…throw down your weapon, and come out…” ordered the leader.
“Lotor don’t!” shrieked Allura, and from the direction of her voice stones flew, pelting the guards.
“ALLURA!” snarled Lotor, thinking, That idiot!
The guards started wildly blasting the air, one arm thrown over their faces to protect against the stones. With a sigh, Lotor activated his lazon sword, and sped forward, swinging wildly.
“ARGH!!” cried the leader, as his hand–the one holding the laser gun–was neatly sliced off. Before it hit the ground, Lotor kicked it, punting it off into the bushes somewhere.
Hysterically over the lost of his hand, the leader slumped to the ground, sobbing incoherently. The other two realized they had bigger problems to deal with then a rock shower, and turned to fire at Lotor. The prince began backing away, using his sword to deflect the blasts that got too close.
“I’ll deal with him.” The taller guard said, sneering at Lotor. “You go find the girl.”
The shorter one broke away, heading towards Allura’s hiding spot. The princess threw one last rock at the man, seeming to have run out of ammunition at last. He smirked, thinking it an easy kill. “Come out little one…” He cooed, approaching the bushes cautiously. “I have something for you…”
I have something for you too…
Allura thought, watching him stalk closer to her.
He bent slightly, using the nozzle of his gun to poke the bushes, expecting to hit soft flesh. He found nothing but a slight resistance from leaves. Frowning, he stepped over the bush, eyes searching to see where the girl could have gone. There she is. He thought, spotting the stirred up dirt that led off to the left. He let out a low chuckle. “Come out, come out wherever you are…”
Allura decided to oblige his request. “You guys really need to work on your timing!” screamed Allura, popping up from behind a tree to the right, a thick branch gripped in her fists. Issuing a challenging yell, she swung and connected, her leafy weapon smacking into the back of the Drule’s skull.
He grunted, taking a woozy step backwards. Allura swung again, this time smashing her branch into the front of his face. She hit him again and again, using the anger she felt over the guard’s arrival interfering with her confession to Lotor. In fact…she might have been a little too overzealous in her beating, continuing to hit the guard long after he fell unconscious.
“WELL!!” Allura huffed, staring at the man. “He deserved it!” She knelt down, forcing his fingers to release the grip on his gun. “Let’s see if this thing has a stun setting…” It did, and she set it to that, blasting the unconscious guard once for good measure. “Hopefully you don’t have any clone DNA, so you should be out cold for the next few hours.”
She stood, and ran towards where she had last seen Lotor and the other soldier. They were still going at it, the man firing repeatedly, Lotor dodging the blasts. Neither was able to get close enough to end the stand off–the gun keeping Lotor from getting near enough to run the soldier through with his sword–the shooter not being able to successfully blast the prince with a laser shot.
“It looks like it’s up to me to settle this.” murmured Allura, liking the thought of playing the rescuer instead of the helpless princess very much. She took careful aim, gun sight following the shooter, as she slowly pulled back the trigger. The man was hit in the back, and he fell down with a cry. She blinked, and saw Lotor standing there open mouthed, looking at her in shock.
She shrugged, smiling sweetly. “Now what do we do?” She asked, and then shot the injured soldier, his screams mercifully dying down as he entered a forced state of sleep.