With a hand held over her eyes to shield her from the sun’s light, Allura glanced upwards, craning her neck back as she gazed upon blue lion. The lion towered over her, a familiar friend that always brought a smile to her face to look upon it. Her lion was sitting up, regal pose reminding her of a waiting cat, face turned towards the castle, it’s golden eyes keeping watch.
The other lions were spread out among the castle lawn, some sitting, some standing, and green lion even hunkered down in a relaxed lounge, eyes lazily watching the trees. Around them, were people, a mixture of Drules and humans, voices shouting as they called out greetings and commands, working tirelessly on their own tasks. It was a bustle of activity, men and women rushing about, tending to the lions.
The robots themselves seemed to suffer the attention with a patience the cats they were modeled after did not have. People fussed over them, servicing them, and cleaning them to the point their metallic hides gleamed. It almost hurt the eye to look at their sparkling frames, Allura putting a hand out to touch the white leg of blue lion. The metal was warm, thrumming with power, Allura likening it to the comforting touch of an old friend.
Inside blue lion, sat one of the replacement pilots, a Drule by the named of Grarash. She had ridden with the man several times, instructing him on the ways of the lion, watching the black haired youth become proficient at piloting under her care. It would take some time and practice, but Allura felt confidant that Grarash would become a master at blue lion’s controls.
It was the same of the other pilots chosen to fly the lions, Allura watching them blossom under her guidance. She still found it strange to see Drules riding inside the lions, but it no longer jarred her with shock. Time was working it’s magic, helping to distance old fears and bring in new acceptance to the situation. It wasn’t just the lions’ new pilots that needed time’s hand, the people of Arus were slowly learning to accept their new neighbors, the Drules and humans coexisting through a trial of errors.
Five days had passed since the horrific night of the ball, word quickly spreading through out the planet as the party guests and their entourage of soldiers returned to their towns. Along with the stories came the displays, the heads mounted on pikes which were then stationed in the center of the village squares. It was a subduing sight, word traveling to the castle on how her people reacted to the warning.
In one town, a grieving family had tried to pull down a head, only to be restrained and tossed down into a holding cell for a few days. The time spent locked away allowed cooler heads to prevail, and upon release the family gave the pike a wide berth of distance, ignoring it for the most part. Allura knew they had gotten off easy, the family could have been killed for what they had attempted to do and because of their ties to a known terrorist. But Lotor had refused to allow needless blood shed, and for that she was grateful.
Lotor was always busy these days following the party, the prince surrounded by paper work. Try as she might to help, Allura never seemed able to make a dent in his duties, always more problems arose, more concerns for both their attentions. It was not unusual for Lotor to be surrounded by people clamoring for his attention, leaving the prince with little time to be with his wife. Lotor was often up long before she, and try as she might, she could never last as long as he did without sleep.
It was a conflicting feeling she felt towards the interference royal duty held over her marriage, Allura missing the carefree days that followed the consummation of their marriage vows. She often found herself wanting to embrace Lotor, to hold and be held by him, wanting to be swept away by his passion once more. But another part of her hesitated, memories of what Nanny had told her coloring her joy when it came to love making. Allura couldn’t help tensing up, recalling the tortured look in the woman’s eyes, and the way she had broken down and cried.
It left Lotor frustrated, the prince put out by the stiff way Allura went into his embrace. She knew he thought it was because of the killings, blaming his actions towards Adamus and the other terrorists for the barrier between them. Allura simply couldn’t bring herself to betray a confidence of such magnitude, unable to soothe Lotor and assure him that she wasn’t turning away from him because of his blood thirsty display. She knew words had no meaning to him, it was the action that counted, and right now she couldn’t bring herself to do much more than hug and kiss him.
Allura sometimes wondered if Lotor was purposefully busying himself with work, all in order to avoid the rift that stretched between them. She frowned, knowing it wasn’t going to get better if they hid from each other, and yet she too felt uncertain about taking the next step. She knew her Aunt Orla would chide her for being a coward, the Queen quick to advise Allura on matters of the heart.
Orla had been a constant presence in Allura’s life since the dismissal of Nanny, the Queen spending the rest of the week in one of the guest chambers in the castle. Allura often sought her out, spending quiet afternoons speaking on all matters, the woman a fountain of wisdom and knowledge. She would miss her when the time came for Orla to return to her kingdom, Allura wishing time could freeze and keep her world from changing any further.
A sigh then, Allura shaking her head, trying to chase away her thoughts. All around her there was movement, her moment of reflection lost to the people outside the castle. Green lion had stood up, it’s tail lashing about as it’s pilot prepared to launch the ship up into the air. People were calling out warnings, backing away from the lion, it’s pilot impatient as it waited for clearance to lift off.
Allura herself patted blue lion’s leg, a fond good-bye in her touch as she too moved, shuffling closer to the castle. She felt the breeze ruffle her hair, green lion’s thrusters sounding loudly, the ship taking a running leap into the cloudless sky. The other lions roared, the ships seeming eager to join their friend in frolicking in the sky, the sounds of all five lions proving deafening.
Allura herself only paid half attention to green lion’s antics, her mind more focused on locating her husband than noting the pilot’s performance. She stepped across the drawbridge of the castle, seeing the guards’ attention was turned towards the sky, ignoring her and the few people who joined her in returning to the castle. She nodded her greetings to a passing pair of maids, smiling faintly as she entered the castle.
Inside, she turned to her right, a hunch guiding her movements that Lotor would be found in the room he had taken from Coran. Her steps were quick, Allura moving with a purpose as she walked through her home, passing by the many people who worked and lived inside the castle. So used to their presence, she barely reacted to the sound of footsteps behind her, merely proceeding on her way when she was seized from behind.
Strong arms gripped her, a hand sliding in place over her mouth and nose, stifling her scream before it could properly take form. Allura let out a muffled squeal, struggling as best she could, her boot covered foot stamping down to smash into her assailant’s toes. A grunt was her reply, the voice male and in pain, but he didn’t relax his hold on her. Instead he hauled her upwards so that her feet dangled off the floor, Allura hand’s grabbing at his wrists, twisting about futilely.
She tried not to panic as she was dragged backwards into one of the conference rooms, Allura fearing this was one of the terrorists that had somehow avoided Lotor’s executing hand. Terror pounded in her veins as she wondered just what fate her assailant had in store for her, screaming louder against the hand on her mouth, even as the door was kicked close behind them.
She was still dangling off the floor when Allura decided to put all her training as a member of the Voltron force to good use, the princess biting down hard on the man’s hand. She tasted his blood, even as her arm moved, driving her elbow into his stomach. She could hear the breath being forcibly expelled form his lungs, the man’s arms weakening enough that she was set back on the ground.
With a hiss of fury, she turned, swinging her arm outwards in a wild slap only to have her wrist snagged by a cruel grip. “AH!!” Allura cried, even as the man pushed her deeper into the room, backing her up against the long table. “Allura!” He snapped, and her eyes widened in recognition. She knew that voice, and what’s more, she recognized the face before her. “Calm down!”
She went instantly slack with shock, just staring at the man before her. His black hair was shorter than she remembered, his mullet shaved into tight black curls which were stuffed under a dark green cap. His face was thinner than she remembered, with fuzz over the lips and chin, the starting growth of a beard and mustache. He was dressed in the green and gray outfit of a castle technician, the colors drab when compared to the bold reds he usually favored.
“K…Keith?!” Allura exclaimed, hardly believing it was him before her. He nodded, cautiously stepping away from her, though his hands were tense as though he would grab her at any instant. “What are you doing here?!” She demanded, even as she straightened up, stepping towards him. “You know what Lotor decreed. You risk prison or worse by being here!”
She threw her arms around him, hugging him close to her. Keith’s arms wound around her, his hands lingering on her back as they embraced. “I had to see you.” He said as she squeezed him. “I had to see for myself that you were all right.”
“You could have called!” She admonished, stepping back, her hands on her hips.
“I doubt your husband would have allowed it.” Keith said, and Allura sighed. “Isn’t that why there’s been no communication from you or Coran? I…Lance and the others have been so worried.”
She tried not to show her sheepishness, realizing she had been neglecting those whom she considered her dearest friends. “I’m sorry.” Allura said, speaking plainly. “I know I should have called. But in all that’s been going on…I’ve…” She almost used the word forgotten, hastily trying to back pedal away from it’s insult. “I haven’t had the time to. It’s been hectic.”
“No doubt. With rebel terrorists running rampant on the planet, and a new husband to attend to.” She nodded at Keith’s words, the man continuing. “He’s always around you….him or that man of his, that smarmy commander.”
“Merack.” Allura supplied the name, then her eyes widened. “How do you know that?” A smile was her answer, devoid of humor as he flashed white teeth at her. “Keith….how long have you been on Arus?”
“A couple of days now.” He admitted, giving an uncaring shrug of his shoulders. “Long enough to observe the changes going on here.”
“Yes, it’s a time of change.” Allura agreed, wondering just what he had seen.
“For all involved.” Keith said, smile fading. “He’s isolating you, you know? Sending away your friends, and now Nanny. Trying to make you dependent on him, make you fall for his charm.”
“No….not entirely true…” Allura protested. “Coran is still here, as is Orla, and the same people who work at the castle remain. Nanny had to go, she…”
“Listen to yourself!” Keith interjected. “Nanny had to go? You agree with her dismissal?!”
“I didn’t say that!” Allura snapped at him, eyes flashing with anger. “And I am working on getting Lotor to allow Nanny to return to the castle.”
“Allow? It’s your home too, or have you forgotten?” Keith demanded. “He shouldn’t allow you anything.”
“It’s a partnership…” Allura began, seeing Keith shake his head no. “We rule together, and as such have to make choices together.”
“Oh?” A lift of his eyebrow, Keith haughty. “So it was a mutual decision to send her away? To kill those rebels?” She frowned at him, shaking her head even as he continued. “Allura, from what I’ve seen you give, he takes.”
“That’s not true.” Allura sighed. “It’s complicated….”
“It’s only complicated if you let it be.” Keith said. “Allura…I know you. You’d never abide by those brutal killings he did. Even if the rebels had earned their deaths with their actions, you would have fought for their right to live.”
“It was necessary to avoid further attacks against the castle and our people….” Allura began, Keith snorting, a nasty snicker of laughter escaping him.
“Necessary?! That’s not the Allura I know speaking. It’s Lotor!”
“……..” She said nothing to that, turning away from him as she wondered if he was right.
“Has time with Lotor really changed you so quickly?” Keith asked, hand landing on her shoulder. “Are you his puppet, speaking the words he tells you to say, or do you still have opinions of your own?”
“You go too far.” Allura said, shrugging off his hand.
“I go not far enough!” Protested Keith. “Allura, I’ve been here long enough to observe, to ferret out secrets, and learn from the servants what’s going on.”
“Oh? And what do they say?” She demanded, glancing at him.
He looked pained. “They say you are close to giving your heart to that fiend.” She couldn’t help herself, she blushed, Keith narrowing his eyes at the sight of her reddened skin. “Is it true Allura? Are you falling for that monster?”
“He’s not a monster…” She said hesitantly. “Not really. He can be kind, and caring….sweet even….”
“All lies meant to deceive you!” Keith exclaimed, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Allura he is charming you, but make no doubts about it. It is all lies!”
“You don’t know that!” She was defensive, beginning to pace back and forth before him. “He’s been a changed man since coming to Arus. Since marrying me…”
“So you what? Just forget about the past in favor of these last few weeks?” Keith snarled out question after question, staring at her. “I didn’t think you so weak willed, so easy to trick.”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you’d like to think.” Allura said stiffly, pausing in her pacing. “Keith. I’m married now. And with it comes certain responsibilities. To myself, to my people, and to my husband. Don’t judge me for trying to make the best of a situation I did not ask for.”
“Seems to me you’re doing more than just making the best of things.” His tone was snide, making her frown at him. “Everyone’s talking about it you know…about you getting your happily ever after with Lotor.”
“I….I wouldn’t call it that…” She protested weakly, Keith continuing.
“Oh? So you mean to say it’s just an act you put on for show, but behind closed doors you’re miserable?”
“No…” A slow shake of her head, Allura frowning at him. “Keith, what do you want me to say? To do?”
“I want you to fight him!” Keith exclaimed, doing a passionate waving of his hand. “Make things difficult, make him regret ever forcing you to marry him. Anything but roll over and let him have his way.”
“It’s already too late for that.” She sighed, brushing a hand though her hair. “I…” She hesitated, frightened to admit the depths of her feelings for Lotor. “I care for him. I don’t want to fight him…not anymore.”
“Yes, it’s obvious by the way you help him instruct the Drules into learning how to pilot the lions.” Keith retorted, dropping his hands down by his sides. “Allura, what are you thinking? You know they’ll take over the galaxy if allowed to use the lions.”
“But that’s just it! They can’t!” Allura risked a triumphant smile, finding herself on steady ground once more. “The treaty I forged with Doom, forbids the lions being used for anything but in defense of Arus. It’s an iron clad agreement, one they can’t break.”
“As if that would stop Lotor and Zarkon for long.” Keith retorted. “Allura…you have no idea what’s going on around you. How they work against you!” Her smile faded, Allura sighing,
“Keith, this is impossible. We see things too differently. I’m sorry but…” She lowered her eyes, staring down at the floor. “We’ll never see eye to eye on this.”
“Don’t be too sure.” Keith said, and moved past her to walk over to the computer console in the room’s left corner. She turned to watch him, seeing Keith produce a small disc from out of his pocket.
“What is that?” Allura asked, watching as he carefully lifted it out of it’s case.
“Something I procured when working on one of the Drule ships.” Keith said, not looking at her as he inserted the disc into the computer’s slot. It disappeared inside the machine, bright green lights flickering as it started to read the information encoded on the disc.
“You were on a Drule ship?” Allura gasped, staring at Keith horrified. “Are you mad? You risk everything in a, in an insane plot to discredit my husband!”
“It was risk worth taking.” Keith said, gesturing Allura to come closer to the computer. She shook her head, causing him to frown at her.
“I don’t want to see it.” Allura told him, staying on the far side of the room. “Whatever it is, just…just throw that disc away. I don’t want to know!”
“You’d be content to live in ignorance?” A disbelieving Keith asked. “Are you so scared of what I found that you would turn away, keep living in an illusion?”
“It’s not that…” Allura protested. “What good does any of this do? I’m locked into marriage with him, for better or worse. Are you so vindictive you would see me be miserable with him, rather than happy?” She stared searchingly at Keith’s face, holding her breath, waiting for him to deny it.
“I guess change comes to all of us.” He said, and abruptly pushed a button on the computer. She didn’t even get a chance to cry out a protest, Allura seeing the view screen flicker with schematics, diagrams of the inner workings of ships. Her eyes grew wider in horror, Allura realizing it wasn’t just any ships she was looking at, but the lion’s themselves, some of their secrets laid to bear on the screen before her.
“What….what is this?” Unaware she came closer to Keith, staring past him to the monitor.
“It’s what it looks like.” Keith said, voice sounding satisfied. “Blue prints of the lions, everything down to their inner workings although they still haven’t been able to crack just what it is that powers them.”
She barely heard him, eyes locked on the screen, seeing the images flicker and fade to a new one, this time showing a close up of Black Lion, with words printed all over the screen, notes and observations on their findings. The words swam before her, Allura trying to make out the writing, realizing it was primarily in Drule, the princess recognizing some of the letters from documents she had seen on Lotor’s desk.
Keith continued to fiddle with the computer, allowing different images to come up on the screen, Allura gaping in shock. “They’re working to crack the code, to figure out what it is that allows the lions to join together to form Voltron. They’re desperate to figure out the power source for the lions, there’s all kinds of notes on what they have tried, more failures than successes in their records. But they’re getting close….too close to allow this to keep going on.”
“It can’t be…” Allura shook her head, eyes troubled. “This isn’t real…”
“Oh it’s real.” Keith’s voice was grim, the former captain allowing the screen to split into several pictures, showing all five lions at once, broken down to their basic components. “And do you know what they are trying to do?”
“It looks like they are trying to recreate the lions but why….?” Her question had him looking at her as though she was naive, Keith sighing.
“They want to create another Voltron.”
“Another Voltron?!” She exclaimed, shocked.
“A whole army in fact. So they can go on their way with conquering the universe.” Keith said, turning away from the computer. The images continued to change, showing documents now, foreign words she had no hope of understanding without a translator.
“But he promised me….” Allura began, her voice uncertain. “The treaty….” She trailed off, trying to think, recalling the details of the treaty she had forged. She could recall nothing being written about Voltron being reproduced, Allura having thought such a thing impossible. “This has to be Zarkon’s doing.” She said, fighting the doubt growing in her heart. “Some trick of the King’s…Lotor wouldn’t….” A new picture on the screen, a close up of a signature on the document, Allura recognizing the neat cursive as that of her husband’s handwriting. “No….” She almost sagged to the floor, Keith stepping forward to catch her.
“I’m sorry Allura…” Keith said, and she reacted, anger in her eyes as she pushed out of his arms.
“No, you’re not!” She snapped, hands curling into fists. “If you were, you would have never shown me this!”
“So you prefer to live in ignorance rather than know the truth?!” Keith demanded, voice anger, expression dismayed.
“I…I didn’t say that!” She said, her hands going to her face. She could see them trembling, shaking with her anger, a ball of tension working it’s way into her stomach, making her want to cry in disappointment. One more look at the screen, staring sadly at Lotor’s signature, the writing a damning piece of evidence. She wondered how he could have kept this from her, how he could do this behind her back, betray her so easily.
With a choked out sound, she spun, turning away from Keith. He reached out with his hand, catching her by her arm, his voice sounding too loud as he demanded, “Where are you going?!”
“I have to talk to him.” She said, yanking her arm free of Keith’s grasp. “I have to talk to my husband about this.”
“Not alone you’re not.” Keith said, moving to follow her towards the room’s sole door.
“You can’t come with me!” Allura was alarmed, shaking her head no. “He’ll hurt you or worse…”
“I’m not that easy to kill.” A grim look from Keith, Allura realizing the man was looking forward to the confrontation. “And besides, I’m more concerned about you.”
“He won’t hurt me…” She told him, then added. “Not physically at least.”
“Still I’ll feel better to be there.” Keith moved back towards the computer, pushing a button that had his disc ejecting from the console. He used the same careful care to tuck the disc back into it’s case, and in a flash had it hidden inside his clothing. “Garrison will want to see this.” He said in response to her inquisitive look. “I need to bring back proof that Doom is still a major threat to the safety of the Denubian Galaxy. And…” An uncertain look at her. “Maybe they’ll be able to use the info on this disc to make a Voltron to combat Doom’s armies.”
She just nodded, feeling as though she wasn’t thinking clearly any longer. Dully she moved towards the door, feeling Keith shadow her as she stepped into the castle hall. Allura willed herself not to cry, not now, knowing the time for tears would come later, once everything was resolved, for good or bad. It was with a sinking feeling in her stomach that Allura realized it would most likely be a bad outcome, one that would leave her devastated in it’s wake.