The vastness of space stretched out before her, it’s emptiness an illusion that was shattered by the millions of lights that lay splattered across it’s canvas. She knew that some of those lights represented worlds, planets thousands of light years away from her. The lights that weren’t worlds were stars, and they too twinkled and helped to chase away what would have been complete darkness.
Occasionally, the lights drew closer, a ship appearing out of thin air, disengaging from hyperspace. They always arrived a safe distance from her, there was never a danger of a collision, leaving Allura with little to worry about. At least in that regard, the girl knowing that at any moment, an enemy ship might wander into this protected territory. But that was what made this trip of hers exciting, Allura living for the rush of adrenaline, as her lion picked up the faint traces of a ship about to arrive.
Adrenaline aside, she was relieved when the appearing ship was proven to be a charter jet for the alliance, the vessel long and sleek and most likely carrying someone important judging by the escorting fighters that accompanied the vessel. The ships didn’t pay any noticeable attention to Allura, they passed each other without so much as a greeting’s communication.
She let out a sigh, disappointed by that, the girl having spent hours without contact of any kind. The last time she had talked to a real person was two days ago, and that was just before she left her home world of Arus. Her friends and team mates had been gathered around her lion, expressions ranging from worried frowns, to a rueful smile from Lance. They had been unsure of her decision, and it showed plainly with their concern, the gathered group trying to talk her out of doing the training exercise.
Allura had been more annoyed than touched by their concern, feeling it was one more way they sought to baby her. A familiar argument had ensued, Allura reasonable as she pointed out that each of the other four members of the Voltron force had been through this exercise. Indeed they had done much more than what she was attempting to do, enduring the rigorous training of Galaxy Garrison to become perfect soldiers for the alliance.
It was that training that had allowed them to endure being made slaves on Doom, to not only survive, but to escape the planet and make it to Arus. That same training allowed them to become candidates to fly the lions, and it was something the four young men excelled at. Allura often envied how easy they made it look, the girl struggling to keep up and not be a burden with her attempts to be a lion’s pilot.
But even trying her hardest, it was apparent she was woefully unmatched for the skill that came of being a trained Garrison soldier. She was dragging the team down, and the recent encounter with Doom’s latest monster had all but proved it, Allura needing to be rescued countless times in the course of one battle.
But she couldn’t bear the thought of retiring her pilot’s uniform, Allura loving blue lion, and the freedom piloting it gave her. And thus she found herself issuing a demand, begging Keith and the other pilots to train her in the ways of Garrison. They had been unsure of her, that much she could see in their eyes, the four hesitating. She had had to repeat that she wasn’t some delicate, porcelain doll that would break if they got too rough and even then she had almost not gotten her way.
But finally their captain, Keith agreed, and despite Nanny’s protests, Allura began to train in ways she had never done before. There was the early morning drills, Allura roused from bed to fly her lion at an ungodly hour. The other four lions were merciless towards her, throwing out every attack they had, forcing her to evade or suffer needless pain.
Those early days she had been hit often, her screams filling her lion’s cock pit. It conditioned her, Allura knowing if she wanted to avoid the pain, she had to become faster, stronger, to be able to anticipate moves before they were initiated. It took time, months going by before she could get to the point of avoiding eighty-five percent of the attacks thrown her way. Black lion gave her the most difficulty, Keith an expert at picking out her weak spots.
Once her evasive maneuvers were deemed adequate, they began working on her attacks, robot manned vessels making up targets in the sky. When she first started her training, her aim had been so bad that five times out of ten, she’d miss the shot. The other times, she’d be widely off center, hitting the target, but not any of it’s vital spots to bring it down.
Her team members had her practicing night and day, to the point it became almost automatic for Allura to shoot down the ships. She’d go to sleep, and in her dreams see the targets, her fingers twitching for imaginary triggers.
Target practice wasn’t limited to just fighting in her lion, her team members had her work on wielding a pistol, Allura firing lasers at the well padded volunteers who ran circles around her. Her pistol was always set to stun, laser blast ricocheting off the walls, her shots wild and unsteady that first week. Over time she began to gain the control needed to fire off the heavy pistol, Allura using both hands to steady it as she took aim.
She became an expert at hitting still targets, and her accuracy with moving objects improved as well. The next stage in her training began, Allura learning how to fire when SHE was the one moving. It was difficult for her to manage, Allura finding she much preferred when she could stop and stand still, have the time to take proper aim, rather than the down and dirty brawls the Voltron force usually engaged in. She’d still be somewhat of a hindrance if she couldn’t find proper cover to hide in while fighting, but at least she wouldn’t be a complete disgrace to her team.
In addition to lion and pistol practice, they had her begin an exercise regime that was modified from the one they had undergone at Garrison. Three times a day, she had to run with her team mates, a strenuous jog that stretched on for miles and left her winded by the end of it. Allura was proud that by this point she could run five miles without panting, but knew she had a long way to go before she could handle the ten miles her team mates managed to make look effortless.
There was push ups, and sit ups, climbing exercises, and weight training. She had to practice carrying heavy bags of sand for long distances at a time, and Allura was pleased to see some muscles were developing in her slender arms.
And with the muscles and increased endurance, came confidence, Allura no longer making as many mistakes in battle. It could have been enough to stop her training right then and there, and indeed her advisor and Nanny pushed for just that. But Allura was never one to abandon something half way, the girl deciding she had to not only continue her training regime, she had to excel at it.
Eventually the time came when the next stage of her training would be introduced. In preparation for it, she and her team mates had gone on numerous trips to a near by planet, spending days there on camping exercises. It was all to get her ready for the week long excursion where she would be all on her own, left to survive on her own wits and skills, with only the provisions carried in her lion.
Naturally Nanny and Coran had been against the very idea of their princess going out into space, alone and unprotected save for blue lion. Her team mates hadn’t been very thrilled by the idea either, and all had worked to change her mind. But Allura had been adamant, saying she needed this training, needed to prove not only to them, but to herself, that she was a capable young woman who could survive out on her own.
It had been two days since she had left Arus, two days since she had last seen her friends. She missed them, even missed the duties her title of princess carried with it. Allura knowing she wouldn’t have minded to see Coran arriving with piles of paperwork for her to attend to. Anything to break up the boredom of space!
It would be another day and a half before her desire was answered, the shrill beeping of a distress signal jarring Allura out of an uncomfortable sleep. She was disorientated, but not so that she couldn’t recognize the sound for what it was. Someone was in trouble, to the point they had to send out a cry for help on an unsecured channel, risking both foe and scavenger to be drawn to them.
Allura knew she couldn’t allow it, could not allow someone in distress to be put in any further danger. She immediately began working the console of her lion, having it’s computer track the signal, and transfer it’s coordinates to her. She recognized the planet it was coming from, the world not too far away from her current location. She didn’t even hesitate, though Allura had been given strict orders not to deviate from the path that Pidge had mapped out for her.
Telling herself her team mates would understand, she veered a hard right, almost turning in place in her haste to fly out on the proper path. Her lion’s engines roared a protest, but then was settling into it’s topmost speed. It had plenty of fuel to burn, she could make it to that planet within three hours time, and still have plenty of fuel for the trip back to Arus.
She took the time to send a coded message to Arus, her words explaining why she had left her post. It would be up to the Voltron Force whether they came after her or not, but Allura almost hoped they wouldn’t. She wanted the chance to prove herself, to show she could handle something as simple as answering a distress call. She didn’t know what kind of help was needed, but Allura felt confidant her new training had prepared her for most outcomes.
She listened to the insistent beeping of the distress signal, the sound seeming to grow weaker as the hours went by. But the lion had locked onto the signal’s location, and even if it died completely, she’d still have the coordinates on hand.
The planet she was brought to was snow covered on one dusky hemisphere. She was relieved to see the distress signal was coming from one of the warmer areas of the planet, Allura knowing she had not brought any clothing suitable for the icier climes. As it was, the warmer weather might prove too hot for her pilot’s uniform, Allura doing a slow descent down to the planet’s surface.
A word flickered across her screen, the name of the planet, though it was unrecognizable to Allura. Information came up, listing the planet’s size, and population, Allura noting it was one of the smaller worlds in the Galaxy Alliance. It was a class D planet, in the early stages of technology, it’s civilization only recently making contact with other worlds. But contact had been made, and thus the inhabitants wouldn’t be frightened at the sight of a ship soaring through their sky. Even one shaped like a lion!
There was thick plumes of smoke stretching up towards her, Allura mistaking them for the smog that came during battle. Her lion flew through the clouds of smoke, and as she continued downwards, it soon became apparent it wasn’t pollution, nor the wreckage of a downed ship. The gray smoke was curling out of the tops of volcanos, over twenty of them dotting the land mass she was drawing near to.
The land mass itself looked brittle, all blackened tar, with rivers of fresh flowing lava that intersected with each other. The lava was a bright orange glow, and in one was floating black bits of a life form that had fallen into it’s path. The blackened bits were rapidly melting and pulling apart, and soon there would be no sign of whatever that had been. She shuddered and quickly flew higher, trying to avoid the jets of hot air that shot out of the volcanos.
In the distance, was a rocky outcropping of land, stones and tar mixed together where the lava couldn’t reach it. It was the ideal spot for her lion to land, but Allura did a cautious circling of the area, her nerves fleeing her as she realized the distress signal was coming from somewhere among the volcanos. A strong sense of fear filled her, Allura not wanting to go into the heart of that arid land.
“Stop being such a coward!” She admonished with a loud hiss, breath rustling the bangs on her forehead. Allura knew she had to get over this fear, and go answer the distress call before something or someone got to the person who had sent it. But her hands were shaking, Allura closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. “I can do this.” She told herself, and guided the lion lower.
Smoke trailed off the sleek slides of the lion, Allura hearing the sound of rocks being upset as her ship’s paws touched the unstable ground. A large pebble rolled down to a small pool of lava, hissing sounds being roused as it began to melt. Allura nearly lost her reserve then and there at the sound, sitting shaking in her seat for a good ten minutes.
It was enough time for the distress signal to silence itself completely, and the absence of it’s noise startled her into action. Unfastening her seat belt, Allura reached for a pack of supplies, small enough that it wouldn’t hinder her movements as she traversed the dangerous terrain. Such was her strong sense of fear, that she began rooting through her supply pack, double checking the medical supplies and food rations. When she realized what she was doing, Allura grit her teeth, and climbed out of her lion, supply pack slung into place on her back.
The heat hit her immediately, the air seeming to waver before her. The lion had been air-conditioned, maintaining the perfect temperature to protect her from the overwhelming heat of this continent. She immediately began to sweat, Allura grateful that her hair was up in a bun, keeping her long stands from weighing her down. She paused to put on her helmet, hoping it would help filter out some of the rancid smell of the this all too hot land.
The coordinates of the distress signal’s origin had been downloaded into a hand held tracker, Allura stepping carefully onto the tar coated land. The tracker beeped quietly, the signal continuos as long as she was headed in the right direction.
A few times she almost turned back, the fear nearly overwhelming, especially when the ground shook and rattled, a volcano seeming close to erupting. Somehow she found the courage to press forward, reminding herself that there was a person out there who needed her. The beeping of the tracking device helped hammer that reminder home, Allura walking for what felt like hours before she arrived at the wreckage sight.
The ship was unrecognizable, all bent metal, and melted down parts. She couldn’t tell what make and model the ship had been, and Allura feared the worse for it’s pilot. All her earlier fear faded, Allura rushing towards ruined ship, and shoving aside parts. She began calling out to it’s pilot, shouting for them to answer her. But there was no answer, not even a moan, Allura shifting aside what had once been the cockpit’s door.
Even with her gloves in place, she could feel the heat of the metal, Allura knowing she would have burnt her skin black if she had laid her hands unprotected on the ship. She continued moving pieces, hoping for a sign, something to prove her journey here had not been in vain, when she saw it. A glove that had once been white, torn in spots so that blood trickled onto the ground.
She hurriedly began moving the rubble about, until she uncovered the person who the gloved hand belonged to. It was a man, strong and muscled, though right now he lay face down in the tar. His white hair was clumped together with soot, the white turning to patches of ash gray and black. He was a big man, several feet taller than she, and Allura labored to turn him over. She nearly dropped him when she saw his face, Allura gasping in shock.
Her shocked cry seemed to rouse him, his eyelids cracking open just a slit for her to see a gold gleam. She stared down at him, and his right hand seized hold of her arm, preventing her from backing away as his eyes snapped open the rest of the way. Dim awareness seemed to be in his eyes, Lotor looking confused to see her. But he didn’t say her name, didn’t make demands, or threaten her.
Instead he whispered a word that had all her fears rising back up to the forefront, Allura shivering as though cold. “What did you say?” She asked, needing him to repeat himself, and wishing he had said anything but that.
“The Keraclon.” Lotor’s voice was hoarse, she could see he was struggling to remain conscious. “They’re here….got to get away…”
“They’re here?!” Allura repeated, alarmed and risking a glance away from Lotor. Already his grip on her arm was weakening, fingers going limp as he began to pass out. He had enough strength left to nod, Allura swallowing a scream. The Keraclon were nightmares brought to life, evil beings that everyone, even the Drules of the Doom Empire feared. That they could be responsible for Lotors’ current situation Allura easily believed, the girl shivering as she gave a paranoid look towards their surroundings.