It had been several hours since Haggar’s visit, Allura mulling over the witch’s words, stunned by the revelation that Voltron did not require a blood sacrifice. Not from Allura, and if Haggar was to be believed, not from anyone. Allura felt an immense sense of relief, the feeling chasing away any embarrassment she might have felt at mistranslating the symbols. It left her feeling as though a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders, death no longer looming at every corner.
But with the relief came curiosity, Allura wondering just what the secret behind Voltron’s formation could be. Lotor had had copies of the symbols reissued, Allura spending the morning and part of the early afternoon studying the photos. Try as she might, she couldn’t fathom the true meaning of the symbols, stumbling over and over at the same spot. The message seemed clear to her. An Arusian’s royal blood was needed, but what that blood would do she did not know.
Haggar seemed to agree partially with Allura’s translation, insisting the girl be brought before the lions. Lotor seemed uneasy at the thought, as though he imagined something catstrophic would happen should Allura stand in the presence of the lions. Truth be known she was a little nervous over what might happen, but she was also well aware that Voltron needed to be formed. If only to stop Zarkon’s murderous attacks on her and her unborn children.
Which is why when Lotor announced it was time, Allura had put on her best smile, determined not to betray her inner nervousness. Looking ill at ease, Lotor had led her from the apartment, and was currently walking arm and arm with Allura, the girl clinging to him with every step they took. He took it as a sign of her unease, Lotor speaking softly to her.
“We don’t have to do this.” She looked at him, Lotor slowing them down till they were standing off to the side of the corridor that led to the hanger doors. “You don’t have to subject yourself to this.”
Guardsmen were rushing past them, a few pausing to give the couple the once over before hurrying into the open doors of the hanger area. Allura spoke in a soft whisper, not wanting to be over heard. “It’s not a hardship to see my people’s treasure.”
“But we don’t know what is required of you to activate the robot.” Lotor pointed out. “I don’t want to risk you….or the twins.”
“Haggar wouldn’t lead us wrong.” Allura told him. “I have faith in her. You should too.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust her….not after all she’s done…” Lotor hesitated. “But she can’t be right….not all the time.”
“Maybe so.” Allura agreed, giving a tug on his arm to get him moving again. “But I want to believe we will find the key to forming Voltron without spilling my blood. Please Lotor, take me to the lions.” She fixed him with her most imploring look, eyes staring urgently into his.
“All right…” Lotor sighed, and began walking. “But I warn you now Allura. At the slightest sign of trouble, we turn back.”
“Yes.” She was quick to agree, more guards passing them by as they strode towards the hangar. From it’s open archway, she could see many Drules, and not just the men who serviced the many types of vehicles that were parked inside the large room. Soldiers were there, and not just palace guards, but ones wearing the uniforms of the Doom army. There were also a small assortment of Amazonian soldiers being led off a captured devastator, their hands cuffed behind their backs, a length of chain connected to their manacles that tied each man to the next.
The prisoners of war were under the watchful eye of the Doom soldiers, Allura noting the disdainful way they handled them. “Those men are from one of the only ships to have surrendered.” Lotor explain, his low voice whispering in her ear. “Some would say they chose the cowards way out rather than fight to the death.”
“There is little honor in dying for a lost cause.” Allura said, surprised when Lotor laughed.
“The Doom Empire would have you believe the opposite. Those who give up are not treated kindly by my people.” She frowned at him, Lotor leading her into the hangar bay. “it’s a death before dishonor thing.”
“How…quaint.” She said, her eyes immediately seeking out the lions. They were hard to miss, locked in a sitting position at the farthest end of the hangar. All talk of death and dishonor slipped from her mind, Allura’s breath catching in her throat. They were magnificent, the effects of the war seeming to leave their colorful shells untouched, their metal hides gleaming in the overhead lights of the room.
All her fear, all her doubts and uncertainties faded in this instant, Allura recalling the excitement she had felt when Lotor had first told her about the lions being real. She took a step forward, arms slipping free of Lotor, Allura in a dreamy daze as she stared at the largest of the lions. To her shock black lion’s head turned, it’s eyes gleaming with a yellow light. Those eyes stared at her, beckoning her closer even as she heard Lotor call after her.
“Wait a moment Allura!” She didn’t stop, conscious of the other lions turning to look in her direction. They weren’t the only ones, the Drules around them looking to see what held the lions attention. She didn’t care, her attention was solely for the lions, Allura shaking off Lotor’s hand when it landed on her shoulder.
“He’s calling to me.” She whispered, and Lotor sounded a tad frantic.
“Who? Whose calling?”
“Black lion.” Came her answer, Allura moving faster. She was determined not to be stopped by Lotor, almost breaking into a run to evade his attempts to capture her arm. “I can hear his voice in my head.”
“What?!” She didn’t have to look at Lotor to know he was freaked, his voice as sharp as a whip’s crack. She didn’t have time to explain, the voice speaking to her but not in any known language, just a distant hum that urged her to come. It was a compulsion that would not be denied, Allura drawing closer to the lions, Lotor right behind her. A murmur rose from the watching crowd, Allura stepping into the round enclosure that the five lions bordered. Lotor’s shadow was upon her, the prince starting to say something when one by one the lions dropped, laying their heads down on their front paws.
“Just what is going on?!” Lotor demanded, and he gestured for one of the technicians to approach him. The man was hesitant to step into the circle, Allura swaying in place as she stared at the gleaming eyes of black lion. Lotor made a move to catch her, his voice an angry bark. “Whose inside the lions?! Whose is playing these games with her?!”
“No one sire!” Came the answer, and Lotor all but growled out his disbelief.
“What did you say?!”
“I…I said….no one. Tthere’s no one inside the lions.” The Drule was stuttering, intimidated by Lotor’s anger, and frightened of the lion’s movement. “The pilots have all vacated from the ships, eager to rest now that the battle is over with.”
She didn’t hear Lotor’s answer, Allura moving once more. The voice was growing more insistent, black lion wanting Allura to draw nearer. Bold as can be, and feeling as though she was inebriated, she walked right up to the waiting lion. Her hand reached out, Allura wanting to make contact with it’s head.
“Don’t touch it!” Lotor’s voice, his fingers closing around her wrist, trying to jerk her arm back. But it was too late, her fingers brushing against the very tip of a nose, power thrumming into her hand.
“I need…” She began, licking her lips as she felt the power surging through her.
“What do you need Allura?” Lotor asked, yanking her away from the lion, and turning her to face him. She stared without really seeing him, voice sounding dreamy as she spoke.
“I need to be inside him.”
“I don’t think that’s wise….you’re acting strangely….and so are the lions…” He protested, and she almost shrieked.
“Now! I need to be inside him now!” Allura was pulling against Lotor’s hold, desperate to return to touching black lion. “Lotor please….remember what Haggar said?!”
“She said to take you with me to inspect the lions. She didn’t say anything about this…this weirdness!”
“She said the answers would come to us on their own……well they have….I’m sure of it….if you let me into the lion, I am positive I can figure out how Voltron is formed!” She could barely see Lotor in front of her, too consumed with thoughts of the lion. The insistent buzzing in her head continued, though it was growing fainter, as though she would lose her once chance at discovering how to form Voltron if she didn’t act now. “Please….this may be our only chance…our one chance…”
“All right!” Lotor said, and let go of her. She was already scrambling towards the lion, grasping the metal in an effort to figure out how to climb on top it’s head. “But I’m going with you.”
She couldn’t think of any reason to raise objection to that, Allura lifting her arms as she tried to pull herself upwards. Lotor’s hands landed around her waist, the prince lifting Allura up high enough that she could grasp the metal right over the eyes. She didn’t even care that she was wearing a short dress, legs surely flashing every male in the hangar as she scrambled up onto the head.
There was a hatch here, open at the moment. She peered downwards, seeing the steel ladder that led inside the cockpit of the lion. Even as Lotor climbed up after her, she was moving down the ladder. The thrumming of power intensified inside the lion, every nerve in Allura’s body on fire as she inched her way towards the control panel. Footsteps behind her, a metallic ring to them as Lotor hurried after her.
She passed by the padded pilot’s chair, squeezing in between it and the control panel. There was so many buttons and levers, Allura not knowing where to begin. “Now what?” Lotor asked her, and she shrugged, staring at the control panel.
“The voice doesn’t speak to me in words….” Allura explained. “I can only guess at what it’s trying to show me.” She gestured, waving her hand over the control panel only to gasp as a clicking noise was heard. The panel actually moved, over turning to reveal a new set of buttons. She stared down at it, noticing there was a place for her hand to press it’s imprint on.
“Maybe we should get a pilot up in here…” Lotor said, sounding uneasy.
“It won’t do any good…” Allura said, putting her hand into the imprint. Lights lit up on the screen, a color for each lion as the royal crest of the house of Arus appeared in the center of the monitor. “I have to be the one to form Voltron.” With that she was sitting down, the seat belts fastening around her. To the side of her was a bar she could pull, and she reached for it.
“Ah…” Lotor’s had grabbed her wrist again, this time preventing her from pulling the lever. “At least let the other pilots get into their lions. We can’t form Voltron without them.”
“All right…” She agreed, switching on the ship’s intercom. Lotor leaned forward, his voice calling down for the other pilots to board their designated lions. It took a few minutes, each pilot still out on the floor, the men grumbling about having to go back out for a test flight so soon after the battle with Merla’s armada had ended. And each minute wasted caused Allura to feel more desperate, the girl feeling the secret was slipping from her fingers.
The pilot of black lion joined them in the cockpit, the Drule looking displeased to see Allura in his seat. But he said nothing about it, merely coming to stand next to Lotor behind the chair, both men gripping onto bars as they watched Allura.
“Has she ever even flown a ship before?” The pilot demanded, and Allura answered.
“And you’re going to let this inexperienced girl fly one of the most difficult lions to control?!” He sounded accusing, derision dripping off his voice.
“I don’t think we have a choice…” Lotor said, the hanger bay doors opening to let out the lions one by one. “The best we can do is instruct her on how to fly.”
“This is no place for amateurs…” grumbled the pilot, and he leaned over the console, reaching for the steering mechanism. “It takes strength and nerve to fly this lion. You need a steady hand, and an unflinching resolve as you take to the skies.”
She didn’t object, allowing him to guide the lion out the docking bay doors. It’s feet hit the tarmac outside the castle, thunder rumbling with each step it took, and then the lion was leaping upwards, it’s jump taking it into the sky. The other lions were waiting for them, milling about with a sort of anticipation that was not shared by the pilots inside them. Those men were impatient, wanting this over with, Allura knowing they thought this was a waste of time.
The pilot of black lion flew past the other four lions, the ships giving chase as they soared further away from the castle. “Well?” He demanded, a hostile glare aimed at Allura. “Now what?”
“We need….need to be higher.” Allura said, pulling on the lever to the side of her. Something clicked, the image on the screen changing, words written in ancient Arusian flashing in place of the crest. She wanted time to study the words, to taste their meaning on her tongue, but first the proper altitude had to be achieved.
“Do as she says.” Lotor ordered, voice strained with tension. The pilot grumbled, but took them up, flying past the dark clouds of Doom, red lion and green lion at black lion’s heels. Behind them flew blue lion and yellow lion, and Allura smiled, feeling the rightness to it all.
“We’re in the right formation….” She announced, and her hands began pressing buttons, in a manner that to an outsider would seem random. But each one was guided to her by the compelling voice in her head, and black lion roared, the other four lions letting out answering cries.
“What’s happening?!” demanded the pilot, feeling black lion shaking.
“We’re forming Voltron.” Allura said it like it was a dumb question the Drule had asked, her fingers moving on the console, calling up the images of the other lions. She heard Lotor exhale a deep breath, an awed curse escaping him as they watched the lions start to changed form. Their legs were tucking in close to their bodies, lightning crackling all around them. Yellow lion and blue lion head extended from the body, formed to resemble the shape of the letter L.
The lions were no longer flying on their own, they could hear over the radio the other pilot’s frantic voices, panicked that they had lost control of the ships. “It’s all right.” Allura assured them. “It’s meant to be that way….”
The transformed lions continued to crackle with lighting all over their bodies, black lion also sharing the power. It was an energy that was calling the lions home, pulling them to the proper points on black lion’s body. Red lion and green lion attached themselves to black lion’s torso, becoming the arms and hands of Voltron. Blue lion and yellow lion attached to the limp hanging back paws of black lion, becoming the feet and legs of Voltron.
And black lion itself? It formed the body and head, mouth opening to reveal a face that had not been seen in centuries. The heads of the other four lions roared in triumph, Voltron taking a triumphant pose as it floated in Doom’s sky.
“You did it Allura!” exclaimed Lotor, his hand giving her shoulder a light, affectionate squeeze. She was staring at the control panel, the buzz in her head starting to fade. She felt empty without it speaking to her, her energy drained as she collapsed against the seat.
“So now we can form Voltron whenever we want?” demanded the pilot, the Drule surely eager to fly the robot.
“Yes.” Lotor started to say, at the exact minute Allura cried out a no. “What do you mean, no?”
“You won’t be able to do it without me.” She felt the rightness of her words, nodding to herself. “Voltron will only activate under the hands of a true blood royal of Arus. It was meant to be piloted only by my family…”
“Then what good is it?” demanded the pilot, sounding disgusted.
“You’ll just have to be satisfied with piloting black lion alone.” Lotor told him, still touching Allura’s shoulder. “The lions alone will be enough for Doom.”
“Allura, why don’t you have Voltron disconnect the lions.” Lotor began, ignoring the scowling Drule. “I think it’s time we return to the castle. There’s been enough excitement for one day….”
“All right.” She agreed, hand reaching for an untried lever. She pulled it, and the lions roared, lightning striking the robot. It didn’t dissipate, remaining to crackle it’s energy across the surface of the body. They heard sounds, joints disconnecting as each lion pulled free of black lion’s body. Slowly they floated in the sky, each one retaking it’s original shape.
Once more they all resembled lions, and with that the electricity finally faded, each lion dropping as the pilot’s scrambled to regain control. Black lion fell too, it’s pilot cursing as he lunged for the steering mechanism. He quickly leveled out black lion’s descent, slowly guiding it down to the tarmac. Allura was calm, watching them pad on thunder ridden paws, the sound almost drowning out Lotor’s cursing.
“What’s wrong?” Allura asked, glancing towards him, seeing the scowl that twisted his face into an angry expression.
“It’s my father’s ship.” Lotor said, gesturing at a large cruiser that was pulling in ahead of the lion’s into the hangar. Allura gasped and stared, trying not to quake in fear as she realized what that ship’s appearance meant. King Zarkon the demon had returned, the secret to Voltron being discovered not a minute too late.