Hope

Hope

“She’s waking up.”

“Princess, can you hear us?”

The voices came from all sides, tickling against her ears as they drew closer. She tried to brush them away, but she couldn’t find her hands. Nothing reached. It was like an itch she couldn’t scratch and it annoyed her until she realized she couldn’t feel her body. She panicked.

They started so far away, the voices, but soon they were right on top of her, smothering. Even though her body was missing, the voices made her feel alive. She could almost see color in them when she breathed. Red in and blue out. Was she dreaming? Maybe hallucinating? She was aware of her hands now, but they still wouldn’t move. Then there were more voices, rushing closer, faster, screaming in her ears as a deluge of pain crashed inside her head.

“Princess?”

“Are you all right?”

“Princess!”

With a jolt, she opened her eyes. Her body rocked forward but just as quickly it jerked back with a snap of a thin metal chain. Her hands were bound and the metal bit her wrists and ankles, sending a sharp fire of pain crackling through her limbs. Allura looked up, then down. Her gloves were off. So were her boots.

“Princess, are you all right?” someone asked again. Allura turned her head, finding the voice. It was soft. Concerned. Her vision was still a little dark around the edges but quickly clearing. She was in a room, small, musty, dim. It was too hot. Water dripped in her eyes. She was sweating in her flight suit.

Not just the restraints, but the walls were made of metal, and it seared against her back. She smelled something burning. Something foul but familiar. It smelled like burning hair but worse.

Gagging on the stench, Allura saw Hunk chained to the next wall. Beside him Pidge was crying in what looked to be relief.

“Did they hurt you?” another voice asked. Her head was heavy, but she lolled her eyes first then her head to the other side. Lance and Keith were restrained on the opposite wall. They looked tired, bloody and bruised. They were missing their gloves and boots as well. Something had happened.

Allura took a deep breath—it felt like she was inhaling sand—and said, “Yes.” It answered both questions and she didn’t want to talk. It hurt too much. She had probably broken a rib or two.

Noticing she was chained between the rest of the team, alone on the center wall, she was thankful that at least they were all together. Out of all the horrible things in the world, Allura feared separation most. She had already lost her parents, her home, her planet to King Zarkon’s initial military sweep ten years ago. She was just now learning to trust again, to love and make attachments. She couldn’t bear to lose the team. Facing the excruciating pain of loss, she couldn’t do it. Not again.

Keith rattled his restraints, testing to see how far they could reach. “We’re getting out of here, team. There is no prison that can hold us,” he said. He looked weary, his hair was matted to his forehead with sweat, and though his voice sounded determined, Allura could hear a tiny thread of doubt stitching together his bravado. “Lance, can you pick the lock of these chains at all?”

Lance gave him an offended look. “What do you think I am, a magician? I don’t have anything to pick it with… chief.” He spat the title off the tip of his tongue. He too rattled his restraints, but more in annoyance than to test their reach. “Those damn Drule took everything we had, even our shoes. What the hell would they want with those!”

“Maybe I can bust out,” Hunk said, leaning all his weight to the front. He extended a couple feet forward. The restraints made a protesting noise, and a bit of hope swelled inside her, but they didn’t budge. Allura looked at the floor, studying her bare feet.

“Princess,” Pidge said. He sounded sad and because of that Allura couldn’t bear to look at him. “Princess, you need to know. They took the lions. Before we could form Voltron they took the lions because—”

Hunk made a swipe at him but the restraints would only reach so far. “Shut up!”

Allura closed her eyes, trying her best to remember the encounter. They were fighting one of Zarkon’s robeasts. It was strong, fearsome, and it was shooting lasers. Lots of lasers from its many eyes. She shivered. It was a heinous thing. Houses and trees and even part of the Castle of Lions was burning. The East Wing was partially destroyed. To lessen the damage, the team had scattered to drive it away from the main part of town. They closed in on the robeast from all sides, trying to catch it off guard and corral it out of the way, but it was too fast. When Keith had given the order to form Voltron, she had been hit.

“I was knocked out, wasn’t I?” Allura asked. She hung her head low, knowing the answer but not wanting to see the look of affirmation on her teammates’s faces. “I let you all down, again. Maybe you were right. I know I’m not Sven, but I wanted to try for my people, for you.”

“Princess, it’s not your fault,” Lance said. He had softened his voice a little. “That thing could have gotten any of us.”

“He’s right,” Hunk added. “Shorty here got hit pretty hard by that thing’s lasers too.”

Pidge made an indignant sound. “Yeah, but at least I wasn’t knocked out!”

Lance growled. “You’re not helping any.”

“What’s done is done,” Keith said. She looked up from the floor and he smiled at her, just a little bit. Watching him smile calmed her. It made the chains around her wrists and ankles not as uncomfortable or the room quite as hot. He looked hopeful; he always was. It was one of the things Allura liked best about him. Even in the bleakest of times, no matter how bad any of them messed up or where they ended up, he always had hope things would turn out all right. “Instead of dwelling on the past, we have to think of the here and now. We need a plan to get out of here.”

“Keith is right,” Lance said. “The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we can find the lions and the sooner we show those Drule scumbags exactly who they’re dealing with.”

Allura twisted in her restraints, working her wrists back and forth against the metal until they were raw. It hurt, but she didn’t want to show her pain and worry the others. If she could make herself bleed maybe, combined with the sweat trickling down her skin, it would be enough lubrication to slip free. Her wrists were the smallest, even more-so than Pidge’s, and she had to make it up to all of them somehow.

A scream came from the outside, riding an undercurrent of laughter. Allura stopped moving in her restraints to listen. Whoever was out there, they were terrified, sobbing and howling like a dying animal. She shivered despite the heat and wretched again. There was that burning smell and more screams, followed by angry-sounding words in what Allura knew to be Drule. A different voice was pleading for his life, begging and offering bribes and servitude to the great Demon King, if only they would just let him out alive.

One last scream and then there was the sound of heavy footsteps, a group walking in sync, talking about the weather and what their wives were cooking for dinner. The sound of their feet beating rhythmically against the metal floor echoed like a death cadence. She held her breath until it faded away. Allura jerked with a start, choking, then looked at the others. She was crying. They had been listening as well.

“Don’t worry, Princess,” Keith said, though this time his smile was gone. “We’ll get out of here. We’ve done it before. Someone will slip up out there.” He nodded to the door. “They always do.” More screams. Allura did her best to suppress a sob.

“What do you suppose they’re–”

Hunk lunged at Pidge again, his arm swinging out but not quite reaching the back the younger teammate’s head. Pidge was so young and innocent, he hardly had any tact. “How about you just keep quiet for awhile and help the rest of us think of a plan to get out of here?”

The door to their dim holding cell opened into a brightly lit corridor. Allura’s eyes watered at the sudden onslaught of light. She turned her head away. A cool breeze swirled around her, refreshing, inviting, but the burning smell ruined it. She was feverish. She was angry. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the vague shapes of a Drule Guard appear. They were pointing blasters at them.

“So nice of me to put you all together, don’t you agree?”

The voice was smooth with a narcissistic lilt. Allura faced front, dread pooling in stomach. From behind the others, one man stepped out into the chink of light from the corridor. He too had a blaster, but at his hip Allura also saw the sheath and pommel of a sword glinting cold in the white light. He turned; there was a whip on his back. When he removed his helmet, Allura’s breath caught at the flash of white hair. She shrunk back against the wall.

“Lotor,” Keith said through clenched teeth. His body arched toward the princess as if he meant to protect her. “Fight me like a man. Fight me with that supposed honor you always claim to have!”

Lotor turned to Keith and his Guard circled around him, training their blasters on everyone in the room, including the princess. The blasters hummed, a low, even sound, fully charged. The door closed.

“Not today,” Lotor said and brought his knee up into Keith’s stomach. The commander crumpled over as far as his restraints would allow, his arms stretched high above his head. He made a low keening sound, but Lotor ignored him. “I’ve already extended a bit of kindness your way by caging all five of you together.” His eyes turned to the princess. “I was very reluctant to do so, but I wanted to prove I’m not that bad of a guy.”

“Not a bad guy!” Pidge shouted. The blaster at his head hummed louder and the guard smirked, his finger caressing the trigger.

“What do you want?” Lance asked, betraying as little emotion as he could. For the first time ever, Allura admired how calm Lance was. He wasn’t trying to goad the Drule prince, but instead pandered to his burgeoning ego. Lance was always very clever.

“Now?” Lotor asked. He gave Lance a cruel smile before he pulled his left fist back and punched him in the face. “Nothing, because I already have the two things I want.” He took a step back, holstering the blaster on the hip opposite of his sword, and looked them over with disgust. “The lions are being transported to Haggar’s laboratory as we speak. Under decree of King Zarkon they are to be dismantled, researched, then replicated again and again, a perfect weapon to aid in the expansion of the Supremacy.” He stepped back into the ring of his Guard and advanced to the middle wall.

Allura looked up at him, willing herself calm. She wanted to make Lance proud, to prove to Pidge that she was not a liability to the team. Lotor’s yellow eyes narrowed, his pupils widening and he licked his lips. Allura swallowed. Stay strong, she told herself. Do not to crack under something as harmless as a look, no matter how maddening it is. She knew Hunk believed in her.

“Stay away… from the princess,” Keith said between gasping breaths. One of Lotor’s Guard flipped his blaster around and pistol-whipped the commander across the face. He slumped forward again, his arms extended behind him, and balanced on his toes.

“Keith!” Allura shouted. Lotor grabbed her by the chin, jerking her face forward. He smiled at her, and she cringed to see the curved fangs in his mouth. He was a half-breed—it was known that his mother was human—but to Allura the Prince of Doom was still very Drule.

“You’re the other thing,” Lotor said. He licked his lips, then played his tongue over the tip of one of his fangs. Allura recoiled at the sight. “I’ve come to collect you, my sweet spoil of war.”

“Get your disgusting hands off her,” Pidge said and one of the Guard came down on him hard with his fist. Still, Pidge struggled with his restraints, hurling curses at Lotor and beating the air with his feet and hands.

Lotor shifted his gaze from Allura and nodded to one of his men “Silence him,” he said.

The man nodded and the blaster in his hand screamed, sending a stream of laser fire through Pidge’s shoulder. At the sight of it, the rest of the team was in an uproar, shouting at the Drule, launching death threats and telling Pidge to hang on.

Pidge screamed, his voice breaking in random places alongside his courage. There wasn’t much blood—the laser had cauterized the wound moments after ripping clean through his shoulder to the hot metal wall behind him—but it took only seconds for Pidge to succumb to delirium. He panicked, flailing about wildly and shrieking nonsense, then he slipped into shock, his eyes falling shut.

Allura’s heart sank.

“Would anyone else like to voice their opinion?” Lotor asked. His eyes slid like liquid around the room.

No one dared to speak, fearing the same fate as Pidge, but they openly glared. Allura could hear enough of what they were saying just by looking at their eyes.

“I thought not.” Lotor turned back to Allura, his hand gripping her chin once more, tilting it up, to the side, down to the floor. He was inspecting her. “You’re a little banged up, princess. Such a pity.”

“No thanks to you,” she said in reflex. One of the Guard at her side moved his finger on the trigger of his blaster, but Lotor held up his hand.

“I apologize,” Lotor said, reaching above her. His gloved fingers skimmed over her wrists. “Such a mess you made here. Why are you hurting yourself… love?”

Allura swallowed the shot of bile quickly rising in her throat. She said nothing. She didn’t want to provoke him.

“I said stay… away,” Keith grunted, lifting his head as high as he could from his slouched position against the wall. The strain on his arms from the restraints above looked painful. All his weight was forward. His arms looked about to snap. “Don’t touch…”

Lotor jerked his hand from Allura’s chin to the pommel of his whip, uncoiling it in his hands. He snapped the leather. “Any other words, commander?”

Keith’s eyes were glazed in pure hatred. He was pushing aside all the pain. “I will… kill you.”

The whip came down with a sick, sharp crack, like bones breaking, lashing across the top Keith’s back. Hunk and Lance jerked forward, but quickly settled back against the wall when the barrels of blasters fell against their heads.

Allura cried out in anguish watching Keith’s skin fall open more and more with each strike of the whip. Lotor laughed, a sick sound that wrapped around some harsh-sounding Drule. Keith’s eyes rolled back in his head as he pitched forward. There was a loud pop. One of his shoulders dislocated, now looking limp and eerie. The other followed suit as all of his weight pulled down on the restraints.

“Keith!” Allura cried out again. Lotor brought the whip down one last time and turned, licking his lips.

“Does it bother you, princess? Do you want me to stop?” he asked, folding the length of leather in his hand.

She ignored him, crying Keith’s name again and again.

“Silence!” Lotor grabbed her face and pulled down her jaw, jamming the handle of the whip inside. “Screaming like a wild animal isn’t very becoming, princess” He shoved the grip further into her mouth when she protested. “Hush.” A hand trailed down her face while the other nudged the handle just a little more.

She couldn’t take it. Her friends were in pain, and she was helpless to do anything. Her eyes wandered, anything to evade the maddening look in Lotor’s eyes. Keith looked liked a doll ripped apart. Lance’s eyes were empty, staring past Lotor’s Guard who were all now throwing punches at Hunk. Pidge probably wouldn’t come out of this alive. Allura made a small sound and started to cry.

Lotor’s breathing quickened and the hand on her cheek moved to trace the curve of her lower lip. “Do you like how that tastes, Allura? How it feels inside your mouth?” He pulled the whip back a little, her tongue tasting leather and blood and old sweat, then he jammed it forward, rocking it in and out in an obscene motion.

Lance made a sound of protest, and there was the sharp hum of laser fire.

“Your friend doesn’t seem to like it.” Lotor laughed and pulled a small card from his pocket, waving it over the restraints above Allura’s head. “A pity, because I do.” There was a beep and the metal snapped open. She pitched forward into Lotor’s chest, taking a swing at him, but her feet were still held to the wall. She stumbled. Lotor yanked her upright, spinning her around. Her ankles twisted in the restraints and she cried out again for Keith to help her, the whip falling to the floor.

“Always the commander you cry for,” Lotor said, pushing Allura’s back into his chest and ran his fingers over her quivering mouth. “Take off my glove.” He slipped a finger inside, forcing her to bite down. “Gently now, or I bite you back.” Another cold laugh as he started to tug. The glove slipped slowly from his fingers.

Did he think this was a game? Did he really get pleasure out of humiliating her and her friends like this? Choking on a sob, she spit his glove to the floor. “You’re disgusting. Vile.”

“Oh princess, I’ve heard it all before,” Lotor said. She could hear the smirk in his voice. A finger pushed against her lips. Lotor had claws. “But let me tell you something,” he leaned forward, his breath a warm hiss in her ear. “You can call me all the names you like. It really turns me on.”

Allura went still as his finger pressed hard against her tongue. She bit him.

Cursing in Drule, Lotor pushed her away, sending her face first into the metal wall, twisting back on herself as she crumbled to the floor.

“Fucking scumbag, don’t… you dare… hurt her!” It was Hunk this time.

Lotor knelt before her, grabbed her by the neck like a kitten and forced her into a sitting position. “What did I say about biting?” His voice was eerily calm, as if he were chastising a small child but didn’t wish to scare her. He was so close, his voice smooth like silk. She trembled when he touched her. “What did I— Please look at me, princess when I am speaking to you.”

She wanted to melt away. Pidge was lucky. Pidge was unconscious, and by the looks of it Hunk would be soon to follow. “I forgot…” she whispered. Her vision faded a little around the edges. Maybe sleep was coming to claim her. Death could be in its wake.

“…bite you back,” was the only thing she heard Lotor say. Her hand was moving, her fingers wet. She felt his tongue running down the length of her fingers, two of them, and then there was a sharp scrape.

She cried out. He was too close. All she could see were his yellow eyes, his pupils dilating and her fingers in his mouth as he sucked. His teeth flashed pale in the dim room.

“Stop.” When she pulled her hand back, his teeth sunk into her. He moaned, tasting her blood, and made a horrible sucking sound. He bit again, gripped her hand tighter. With a start she remembered that Drules, even half-breeds like Lotor, were carnivores. “Stop, please. Lotor, it hurts. Lotor.”

The look in his eyes changed. It was glassy, unseeing, yet he was staring straight at her. “I could make a wine from you,” he said and dragged his claws over her wrist. Pressing down, Allura looked away as her blood began to spill. “A wonderful blood wine, only for me.” Lotor inhaled, closing his eyes. Her wrist was to his lips. “The wine of an innocent, virgin girl.”

“Stop.”

He held her close. His arms fell around her and the world started to go dark. This was it. It hurt to breathe. She was going to die.

“She said stop, you asshole.”

Both she and Lotor looked at Keith, hardly seeing him. His body looked defeated, but his eyes were on fire. He wanted to kill even if he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Let me down… and fight me like the man you claim to be.”

“Hold her,” Lotor ordered one of his Guard. He stood and a large Drule, larger than Lotor, grabbed Allura by the hair. She stumbled. He forced her to stand, gathered her wrists in one of his large, gloved hands and pressed her to the wall. “I said hold her, not touch her. I’ll kill you if you do.”

The guard pulled back a little. Allura’s eyes began to close. His body was on fire. He was smelling her hair.

“You’re in no condition to fight, commander. Even if I were to let you go and give you a weapon, you couldn’t win.” He gestured to Keith’s dislocated arms with a grin. “You couldn’t even hold a blaster.”

“I said, let me down and fight me.”

Lotor swiped the keycard over the restraints above his head first. Keith’s arms came down fast, hanging limp at his sides. Lotor laughed, grabbed the blaster from his belt and tossed it at him. It clattered to the floor. “Your weapon,” Lotor said, bending over to swipe the keycard over the lower restraints.

As soon as his legs were free, Keith kicked a wide arc across Lotor’s chest, knocking the prince off balance. It was a lucky strike. Allura tried to stay awake, hoping for another. Stumbling back a couple steps, Lotor drew his sword and slashed at Keith as he kicked again, catching his shin. There was that burning smell, and Allura realized what it was and why all those people were screaming before.

This time it was Keith who screamed and then Lance screamed for him to get up and take the bastard out. All of the Guard trained their guns on Lance. Allura watched in a daze, pinned beneath the burning smell of death, as Lotor swiped his lazon blade clean across Keith’s chest. Everything moved in slow motion. Lotor’s Guard each fired a round of laser shot at Lance.

“I want you alive,” Lotor said, grabbing Keith by his sweat-soaked hair when he had fallen to the floor. “I want you to watch, to remember.” Pulling the lower restraints as far as they would go, Lotor twisted Keith’s body around and secured his wrists, leaving him crumpled on the floor in direct sight of Allura. “Give her to me.”

The guard held her as Lotor snapped open her bottom restraints, then threw her at him. Lotor caught her, spun her around, and pushed her face to the floor.

“Let… me go,” was all she could manage to say. She saw the boots of the Guard drawing closer, and Keith’s face draining of all color. She wished he was unconscious so he couldn’t see how badly she was shaking.

“No, princess. You’ve been a very bad girl.”

The men were laughing, speaking in Drule, ribbing one another. One even nudged Allura with his boot. When she looked up he flashed her a feral grin. Then his eyes widened and the hum of lazon cut clear across his chest, all the way to the shoulder. The man stumbled, then crumpled in the corner next to Keith.

“None of you touch her,” Lotor said, his voice grating low in his throat. He said something in Drule. It was a sickening sound, a growl with mixed consonants and syllables. Then he switched to Basic. “She’s mine. Do you understand me? For the last ten years, she was the spoil I never claimed.”

Allura’s stomach clenched and bile rose in her mouth, but this time she couldn’t swallow it back down. Ever since Zarkon had laid waste to her planet, Lotor would not relent in his chasing. Even when he was sent to collect the lions of Arus for the Drule, he still went after her. Allura despised that in him most of all. She was not a piece of property, not an object to be collected and taken away. She was a human being.

In a moment of madness Allura laughed and saw blood welling between Keith’s lips. Lotor didn’t care. All of them were just things to him, pieces of property all of which were easily disposed. Allura was sure that one day, even after all his advances, all the chasing and hunting and stalking, Lotor would tire of her too and toss her in the mines.

Lotor loved the chase. He did not love her.

Keith swallowed the blood. Lotor ran his hands down the curves of her body.

“Go ahead, princess. Fight me. I love a good struggle.”

Allura kept still, moving only when Lotor forced her out of her dripping flight suit or when pain corkscrewed between her legs. She would not fight him, not even with his leering Guard watching. She would not give him what he wanted. She was only sorry it took her this long to figure out what it was.

Instead, her eyes were fixed on Keith. She knew he couldn’t do anything, none of them could for the time being, and even though she fought by not fighting, all Allura wanted to do was die.

Yet, she took solace in the fact that Keith’s eyes were still full of hope.


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