When they intercepted a distress signal less than a light-year away, the Voltron Force went to investigate. It was a weak plea, a barely audible radio frequency stretched over trillions of miles, but nevertheless a cry for help. Someone was in trouble. Big trouble by the sound of it. They couldn’t turn a blind eye to an ally, Keith said. It was their duty to help others when they were in need.
Now was most definitely the time.
They didn’t know what had happened to trigger the distress signal, what planet the ship was from or what kind of ship it was, but they all agreed to help, some more reluctantly than others. Lance protested. Pidge was curious. Hunk was ready for an adventure. Allura embarked her lion shaking with trepidation.
She scanned the monitors. Nothing for millions of miles, not even a planet, just dust. When Blue Lion was completely submerged, the dust started to give way to pieces of small interstellar debris, then to larger, boulder-size pieces. There were bits of wreckage. Her monitor beeped. Larger debris came into view. Meteoroids.
It was a cargo ship that had been caught in a meteor swarm. Allura looked for any identifying marks. It was dull green, box-like and archaic looking. The hull was badly damaged, the front of the ship totally ripped apart. At the sight of it, Allura held her breath. There was no way any crew could have survived, not after a hit like that. Still, Keith’s voice came over the radio and suggested looking for survivors.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” Lance said, his voice a gruff hiss over the radio as they descended into the open front of the ship. “We don’t know whose rig this is or what cargo its carrying. This could be a trap.”
Keith’s voice came back in a hiss of static. “Trap or not, it is still our duty to investigate.”
“Some duty,” Lance said as the lions landed inside the ruined bridge. It was a mess, consoles pulled halfway from the floor as if they struggled to keep hold lest they perish to the cruel vacuum of space. Everything else that wasn’t bolted down was long gone, crew included.
“How are we even going to get into the ship?” Hunk asked. “If we step one foot out of the lions, we’re done for. We don’t have pressurized suits.”
“Let’s turn back.” She couldn’t believe she said it, but there was worry gnawing at Allura’s stomach. Something wasn’t right. “I have a bad feeling.”
“We can’t turn back!” came a desperate shout over the intercom, so loud it rattled inside her head. “The crew of this ship may need us. They’re stranded otherwise!”
“Pidge, you have an idea?”
Allura only half-listened as the rest of the team constructed a way to get inside the ship without compromising their lives. Allura loved to fly, but she didn’t have a strong liking for space. It made her feel cold, empty. Even with all the stars and planets and knowing that other sentient life was all around, it still made her feel horribly alone.
A small shout of victory came from the intercom. “Yes, it worked! Everyone, just do what I do and we can get inside just fine,” Pidge said. Allura saw that the front paw of his lion was now flush with the only wall still in tact on the bridge. “Focus your energy and-”
In a beam of colored light they left the lions standing guard on the ruined bridge, anchored. The team traversed the rest of the ship on foot, hiding behind walls and darkness with their blasters ready. There was nothing, not even the body of a crew member found along the way.
“It’s too quiet,” Lance said, blasting open the door of an elevator. The shaft was empty. Lance looked up, then down. “Even the engines are quiet.”
“I doubt the elevators will be operational then,” Pidge said. Allura peeked inside the dim shaft. Tiny lights glowed on the walls. Emergency lights she figured. There was a ladder.
“Let’s keep moving,” Keith said. Lance already had one foot on the rung of the ladder. They all went down.
Each time they came to a new floor, Lance shot open the door with his blaster. “Be careful,” Pidge said from above. “You don’t want to waste all of your charge.”
Lance scoffed. “Doubtful we’ll have to fight anyone. They’re likely all dead.”
Pidge sighed. “Suit yourself.”
They searched every floor they came upon as they traveled down and found nothing. There was no crew. No personal belongings. No light.
“Something isn’t right about all this,” Allura said again. They were still moving down the elevator shaft ladder. The first six levels were eerily clear, and while she didn’t know how many levels a cargo ship usually had, she wasn’t sure they would find much else.
“She’s right. The more we search through here, the more I’m thinking the same thing,” Hunk said. “This place is too empty.”
Keith looked at the rest of them. He was the last to make his way down the ladder. “When we get to the cargo hold, I’m sure we will find something. If not, we’ll head back up, get the lions and get out of here. It’s not like we can’t say we didn’t try.”
Nodding her head in agreement, Allura said, “You’re right. Trying is really all that matters.”
Lance made a scoffing sound.
Two more levels and they made it to the cargo hold. None of the control panels worked. In fact, the only things running on the entire ship were the emergency lights glinting cold on the walls every couple meters away. It took three blasters to melt the door open.
“Oh, wow. Will you look at that.”
Allura wasn’t sure who said it, but she knew everyone was thinking it. Under the chill blue of the emergency lights was gold. Lots and lots of gold. There were coins, gilded treasure boxes, jewelry laying all over the floor.
“A pirate ship,” Pidge said. He fell to his knees, touching an elaborate gold crown encrusted with sparkling red gems that looked like blood. “We’re rich.”
Keith walked further into the room, his eyes scanning the darkness. Allura walked beside him. “We’re not taking anything. If this is indeed a pirate ship, that means this treasure was stolen and someone is sorely missing it.”
Allura nodded. “Keith is right, you guys. We can’t take this, although…” Her mind began to wander. “We can try to return it. To find its rightful owner.”
Lance went off in another direction. There was the sound of gold coins tinkling against the metal floor. “And if the owner doesn’t come forward, we can keep it for ourselves!”
“I like the sound of that,” Hunk said.
Allura froze. Gold. Lots of it and it stretched on for what seemed like miles, upward towards the ceiling. A shiver went through her at the sight of it. “Lotor,” she whispered.
There was a statue of Doom’s Crown Prince looming over them, at least thirty measures tall. The amount of gold and slaves it must have taken to make such a thing, just thinking about the possible answer made her skin crawl.
Keith shook his head. “Would you look at that?”
Lance, Hunk and Pidge came up beside them. Lance whistled at the statue in mock appreciation.
“We’re on a Drule ship,” Allura said. “We have to get out of here.”
“Not so fast,” Lance said. “There were no Drule insignia anywhere on this thing, and from what I can tell, even Drule cargo ships are more impressive than this one.” He shook his head. Allura could hear gold jangling in his hand. “No, I bet whomever this ship belongs to, they stole from the Drule.”
“Still, it’s bad news,” Hunk said. He cast a sidelong glance at the elevator shaft. “Pirates stealing from the Drule most likely mean that said Drules are pissed off and looking to reclaim their loot. They may not be too far behind.”
“But where is the crew?” Keith asked. Everyone shrugged.
“That’s the least of my worries right now,” Lance said. “I say we pick up as much treasure as we can hold and high-tail it out of here.”
Allura was about to agree when the sound of laser shot came barreling down the elevator shaft.
“Shit,” Lance said. “Someone’s here.”
“Maybe the crew?” Pidge offered.
Allura looked around the cargo hold in a panic. The elevator shaft was the only way out and now she could hear the sound of boots ringing against the metal rungs of the ladder. Voices followed. They were speaking Drule.
“Shoot them,” Lance said as he eyed his blaster in the dim light of the cargo hold. He didn’t have much of a charge left, but thankfully the others did.
Keith glared at him.
Allura ran behind a large gilded treasure box with Hunk, peering over the top and aiming her blaster at the open elevator shaft. At the first sign of movement, the all let loose a volley of laser shot and whoever they hit came tumbling down the elevator shaft.
There were loud curses and more Drule. Voices ricocheted down the elevator shaft in an angry growl. More feet cleared the bottom of the ladder, so they fired more laser shot before the Drule had a chance to jump the rest of the way down. Allura caught a glimpse of blue skin and smiled. She would enjoy taking this treasure from the Drule.
The ladder worked in their favor, making it easy to pick off the couple men who had come down to the cargo hold. After a moment of silence, no one else was coming down.
“What?” Hunk breathed. He moved his finger back and forth over the trigger of his blaster, anticipating the Drule’s next move. “That can’t be all of them. They wouldn’t come with just a handful of soldiers.”
He was right. They wouldn’t.
Jumping down the ladder, they came in small swarms now, landing on their feet and rolling out of the way to dodge incoming laser fire. This time, they had the clearance to shoot back.
Allura screamed when a round of laser shot hit the gilded chest she and Hunk were hiding behind.
“Are you okay, Princess?” Hunk asked as he kept firing into the advancing teams of Drule.
Allura risked a look. “Yes, I’m fine. I was just startled.” They were dressed nicer than any other Drule soldier she had seen. They must have been some sort of elite Guard. Allura suppressed a bit of laughter. Of course, King Zarkon wouldn’t send just anyone to deal with pirates who had stolen from him. He would only send the best.
But if they were an elite force, they certainly didn’t pay any mind to the treasure. Fragile gold jewelry crunched under their boots. Gold coins, which Allura now saw bore the imprint of the the first king and queen of Arus, were kicked aside. Allura fumed. These were coins from her world, treasure she had thought stolen for over a decade after King Zarkon had laid waste to her planet, right here in a pirate ship in the middle of space.
Allura closed her eyes and shot her blaster blindly into the soldiers. She wanted to get even.
“What are you waiting for? Overtake them!” came a voice from the elevator shaft. There were more soldiers coming down, but standing behind them was a man—most likely their commander—pushing them forward into the laser fire and urging them to return it with relish. “But do not kill! My father wishes to take care of these insolent pirates himself. Now, show yourself!”
Allura and Hunk looked at each other.
Keith stood up screaming and let loose a volley of laser fire.
“Well, if this isn’t a pleasant surprise!” Lotor said in Basic then followed up with a command in Drule. He pointed a finger and his men charged. They came at them full force.
Allura dove behind the chest, curling up on herself. She shook, realizing that keeping them alive was no longer a requirement. They were not the pirates Lotor sought.
In the span of one breath it was over. The sharp hum of laser fire shot over her. Hunk kept a hand on her head, pushing her out of the line of fire as the sound of boots on metal and gold drew ever-closer.
Hunk’s hand slid to her neck, then fell limp. He stood there, staring straight ahead, his eyes unseeing. His blaster clattered to the floor. Allura screamed.
“Alive!” came Lotor’s voice over the din and sharp, acrid smell of laser shot. “I want the princess alive!”
There wasn’t any escape. There were hands grabbing her, pulling her from behind the treasure chest, slamming her against the wall. She smelled fire, flesh burning, hair burning.
“Can’t have you going anywhere,” one of the soldiers hissed in her ear as he struggled to keep her still. “I’ll lower the charge. Like an insect sting, promise.” He drew his blaster, aimed and pulled the trigger. Allura screamed, twisting her neck to look at her foot. She wasn’t bleeding, not yet at least, but it hurt more than anything else she had ever experienced in her life.
“Princess! Princess Allura!”
“Keith!” Writhing in the soldier’s grip, Allura watched Keith train his blaster on as many Drule as he could. They were falling but not fast enough. Lotor had joined the fray. He had Lance by the hair and the barrel of his blaster to his neck. He squeezed the trigger.
Allura couldn’t find Pidge. There were too many Drule and so much laser shot. She kept her eyes on Keith, watching as Lotor raised a blaster and shot him square between the eyes.
She screamed. The guard pinning her to the wall slapped her across the face. She kept right on. “Keith! No, Keith! Please!”
The high-pitched hum of laser fire ceased but the smell of burning flesh was still thick in the air.
“Contact Korrinoth and arrange a transport for the treasure,” Lotor said. He kicked one of his own fallen soldiers in the head. He didn’t move. He was dead. “Start loading it up. I want it to be ready by the time it gets here. We won’t have a transport slot for long.”
Sagging the the arms of the soldier, Allura began to cry.
“Give her to me.”
The guard shifted against her, then handed her to Lotor. It was hard to see when the cargo hold was filled with nothing but emergency lighting, but Allura thought she saw blood streaked across Lotor’s face. She hoped Keith had at least gotten a good hit in on him.
No, she told herself. Keith was going to be okay. He wasn’t dead. None of them were. They were just fatigued and in a moment they would push up from the floor, take out the rest of the Drule scum, take the stolen treasure and return it to its rightful owner. They could do it. The Voltron Force would save the day once again!
“Keith, please! Keith! Help me!” Allura cried out at the spot where she saw Keith fall. All around him the soldiers were stuffing the gold into bags. They paid the fallen commander no mind. Some even walked over him or pushed him aside to get better access to the treasure. “Keith, please get up. Please!”
Lotor’s voice was a hiss in her ear. “Your commander is dead,” he said. His eyes glinted pale in the cold light of the room. He blocked her view. “Why keep crying for him?”
Allura’s body lurched. She wouldn’t believe it. He couldn’t make her. “Keith!”
She needed him. She didn’t know what to do. Lotor pressed her against the wall and buried his face in her neck. His mouth was on her, and his breath. Allura brought up her knee between his legs and struck. Lotor slapped her.
“Now princess, I suggest you play nice.” Teeth skimmed across her throat. She went still, feeling the sharp prick of his fangs catching against her skin. “This was certainly a nice surprise. And here I was thinking I had come all this way to deal with a band of nasty, insolent pirates.”
“There was a distress signal,” she said. She had to explain herself. Lotor believing she had met him here on purpose was the last thing she wanted. “We came… to help.” But her explanation sounded pathetic even in her own ears.
“A signal that was a few weeks old,” Lotor said, his mouth moving to the collar of her flight suit. He bit down, tearing it with his teeth. She could hear his voice catch a little in his throat. “My father really did blast your people back a couple thousand years. Your technology is pathetic, my dear.”
Allura gasped, indignant but also ashamed, and pushed Lotor’s face away. “Get off! Keith! Help me!”
Lotor growled, then shouted something in Drule to one his men. The soldier nodded. “Your commander isn’t in any state to help you, princess. I know it may take a little while for reality to sink in, but I can help you with that.”
With wide eyes, Allura watched the soldier come back with Keith hanging limp in his arms. He dumped him to the floor, his body a tangle of limbs bent in awkward positions. Lotor grabbed her wrists and spoke to the guard.
Keith wasn’t dead. She kept telling herself that, even as Lotor forced her to her knees, holding her wrists out in front of her. The soldier turned Keith belly-up and bound the commander’s wrists to Allura’s with pieces of another soldier’s bag, half-filled with gold and other treasure, that he had ripped apart with his teeth.
“Take a good look at him,” Lotor said. He forced her knees to straddle Keith’s stomach and raised her hips. “That’s what death looks like, Allura. That’s what happens when you defy the Supremacy.”
Keith’s eyes were open, unseeing and his mouth was twisted in partial scream. The color had drained from his face, but he was warm. There was still hope. He could still be alive.
Sucking in a shaky breath, Allura whispered, “No.”
Lotor’s hands were down her back. He played with the zipper of her flight suit. She heard the sound of it. Yet all of that was shoved to the background. All Allura could focus on was Keith lying under her, his chest still, his voice stolen.
Her hips were rising and her skin was cold. The soldier next to her pushed her face into the crook of Keith’s neck, telling her to suck it then bounce a little against Keith’s chest. Harder. Faster. He told her to open her eyes and look them.
There were soldiers ringing her, Lotor and Keith. Some were quiet, holding bags only half-filled with treasure. Most taunted her, offering suggestions on what she could do next.
“Oh Allura, if only he were alive to see this. If I hadn’t killed him, this most certainly would.”
Her flight suit hung limp on her arms, covering Keith like a shroud.
“I am going to enjoy this,” Lotor said. Hands, then his fingertips were digging into her hips. She could feel claws through his gloves. Allura screamed.
The soldiers cheered and threw gold coins at her. One even jammed a handful as far as they would go into Keith’s throat.
Allura closed her eyes, drowning out the sounds, the pain, the humiliation with anger and resentment. Everyone was gone. Her friends, her comrades. The man she loved. How could they do such a thing? Why did they leave her alone? Why were they allowing her to be tortured like this?
The pain between her legs dulled just a little, and the darkness behind her eyes beckoned her to slip away like a thief into the night. Even though she couldn’t see what lay beyond, she knew it was safe, at least safer than where she was. She would steal herself from Lotor. On the edges of her consciousness though, she could still hear the jeering of the Guard.
“Quit stalling. Load up the treasure and get to the transport.” Lotor’s voice was right on top of her but the other voices dissipated. She heard footsteps. People walking away, but Lotor was still there. She could hear him, feel him, and he was pulling her hair hard. “Don’t black out on me, Princess. Not… ngh, until I’m finished.”
Her grip on the darkness slipped.
“That’s better. Much… much better. When you relax you can take it all, just like a good girl.” Lotor ran a hand down the ridges of her spine. She could feel him shiver from the inside. “We’re going to miss the transport.”
Allura bit her tongue fighting back tears, her face buried in Keith’s neck, hips canted high. Lotor growled, cursing how he didn’t like to be rushed, but then he began to gloat, his laughter echoing like disease in the now empty cargo hold.
Allura made a very small sound.
“That’s right,” Lotor said, switching freely between Basic and Drule. “Right there. All women like it right there.”
He moved too fast, held her too tight. Allura pulled back just a little, staring into Keith’s eyes. The commander couldn’t hold her at all.
Inside, Allura apologized as Lotor sang her praises on how tight she was, how well her body moved, like she was made especially for him. Allura swallowed back her sickness. She was saving herself, for Keith or someone else entirely she wasn’t sure, but now she would never know. She was ruined, but that wasn’t the worst of it. It would never be the worst of anything.
The commander of the Voltron Force, the man who would have helped anyone one in their time of need, was nothing more than a body lying on the floor, cushioning her against Lotor’s vicious assault.
Keith was dead.
Allura screamed, but this time it was from how cold Keith felt against her hands.
“Poor thing,” Lotor grunted. Allura slid up and down Keith’s body, watching in horror the way one of the commander’s fingers twitched against her wrist in a postmortem spasm. “Do you not like this position, Allura? Because I do. A lot. Very fitting for a woman to be down on her knees while a man lords over her.”
It happened again, this time with the other hand. She screamed.
“Yes. Say the commander’s name now, Princess. I would very much like to hear it.”
An intercom on Lotor’s belt hummed and some distant guard said something garbled with static in Drule. Allura didn’t even attempt to decipher the meaning; Lotor did for her. The transport slot would be open for the next ten minutes and she was coming with.
Allura didn’t say a word, she just begged the darkness behind her eyes to come back.