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Pidge noticed it first. Ever since their fight on Olkarion, she had worked constantly with the Green lion, their invigorated bond and the Olkari’s donation of files igniting a sense of motivation and determination Pidge could not smother.

The indents between Green’s paws were curved and comfortable, becoming Pidge’s frequent recluse during her brainiac moments. Leaning against her lion, her body heat fully seeped into the metal, she tapped in code with one hand, twiddling the thick cable dangling from her lion’s head with the other. She let out an echoing whoop, “That should do it!” she exclaimed, before patting the metal paw beside her, “If I programmed it right, I should be able to precisely refine your lasers to produce varying levels of vines and greenery.”

Purrs reverberated through her brain, making her grin. “If this works, I can potentially transfer this code into my bayard. It wouldn’t achieve as much damage as your laser, of course, but it could be effective in distracting a group or incapacitating an enemy.”

A sense of pride wash through her, like the warmth of a radiator seeping into cold fingers. The message was clear from Green: you did great, you are great, I’m so proud of my paladin.

These moments were precious to Pidge. Despite the team’s concerns about her non-existent sleeping routine and her long durations of isolation, the success she feels and the pride Green gives has her buzzing with joy. In these moments, she feels like she’s doing right, that she’s making progress, getting one step closer to her goal. She doesn’t feel so helpless.

A uncomfortable buzz, a sense of concern. “Sorry, Green. Just got...lost in thought, I guess.” She shook her head, stamping the melancholy down, down, down. “Let’s try this out.”

She activated the code, watching it scroll as it was analysed and tested. Her returning giddiness was sharply cut off as the screen flashed a notification, outlined red. A failure.

“What? Did I miss something?” Pidge scanned through the code, seeking the fault, “I was sure I got everything correct. Maybe a command was incorrect, if I type it like this it should-”

“You mistyped the second line of code.” A voice said, and Pidge yelped. With a quick crouch, she swiped for her bayard and kicked her leg out, hoping to disconcert the intruder. It was only when she sprung up and focused on her surrounding did she see them.

They were not Galran, that’s for sure, which made Pidge hesitate with her strike. Their features reminded her of the Olkari, with a sharp, long face and pointed eyes, yet her pink off-tones and long-fanned ears were unrecognizable to Pidge.

“Who are you? How did you get on this ship?” Pidge demanded, tightening her grip on her bayard.

The alien only starred. Their arms crossed underneath the off-shoulder cloak, but the small smirk suggested the action was more curious than aggressive. “Strange that you’d be able to see me now. Perhaps that code reinforced your mental link, or maybe you’ve had enough exposure to Green to finally perceive me.”

Pidge tilted her head, perplexed. “Strange that you intruded into this ship without setting off the alarms or my lion’s sensors. So, again, who are you?”

With the silence that followed, Pidge was almost about to ditch her questions and attack regardless, before the alien tilted up her head, and with a regal, stoic voice, replied. “I am Trigel of the Dalterion Belt, the original Green Paladin of Voltron.”

“Oh, wow.” Pidge floundered, “Okay, although that’s impressive and brings about a lot of questions, how am I meant to believe you?”

“Speak to our lion, she knows the truth.” Trigel said, looking up at Green.

Apparently, Pidge didn’t need to ask, for Green proceeded to release a purr that shook her entire frame, as heat rapidly flushed through her: safe, secure, definite, Green seemed to say, and the passion she omitted made her relationship with the alien clear.

“Well, if you’re certain.” Pidge said to Green, dropping her bayard before giving a quick bow, “I am Pidge of Planet Earth, and I am the Green Paladin.”

“Such certainty in your position.” Trigel commented, before giving a quick twisting hand gesture - a likewise sign of respect, Pidge assumes. “I am glad we can finally communicate clearly.”

“Have you tried communicating before?”

“Yes, of course. I have always been present in the Green Lion’s mind, but it seemed your bond was not stable or deep enough to achieve this connection until now.”

Pidge stepped closer, “So you’re a part of Green’s interface? I was gonna ask how you could be her physically despite...” She paused, hesitant in whether to tell the truth.

“You are right to question. No, I am not physically here. I am composed of all the memories and ideas I shared with Green throughout the deca-phoebs. I can only assume my true self died by the hands of the Galra, over 10,000 years ago.”

The determination and curiosity in Pidge was unrelentless as her giddiness resurfaced. “All those years with Green, you must have a lot of information to share.”

Trigel laughed, “Perhaps I do, but it seems you might not need it. You are an impressive intellect without my assistance. Your reverse-engineering of the Galran invisible technology to use on Green was remarkable. It took my team several movements to implement such devices onto our fighter jets before the war.”

Pidge grinned, the warmth of pride trickling in at the praise. “What did you say was the fault with my code?”

“The second line.” Trigel said, crouching beside the discarded laptop. “I think I also saw several faults in the fourth command. Would you like me to point them out to you?”

Placing the laptop on her crossed legs, Pidge returned to her reclusive spot between Green’s toes, with Trigel sitting above to point out lines of code.

Maybe conversing with others during these brainiac moments was not a bad idea, after all.

***

“Are you sure that’s what it is?” Hunk asked, fingers clasping the hem of his shirt, “It could be a hallucination? Or maybe the druids! Could they reach us this far? What if we’re all be affected? What if this is a trap to make us feel secure and then attack?”

“Hunk, I am certain.” Pidge said, exasperated, eyes not once leaving her screen. “I checked Green, and there is nothing wrong with her system, so it isn’t a malfunction. And our last health scans didn’t show any neurological tampering, so it can’t be druids.”

“Fascinating, I never heard of such a thing happening with King Alfor.” Coran said, peering over Pidge’s shoulder to watch her rapidly passing code.

“From what Trigel said, I think it only works on us because we aren’t the original paladins.” Pidge inferred, attempting to scroll whilst cleaning her glasses against her shirt. “The bond with the lions is more than telepathic, magical nonsense. I hypothesize that it’s like a virtual cloud, downloading and uploading information simultaneously. The constant exchange of data should help fasten reaction times and predict attacks to improve our movements in battle. Because of that, the lions must’ve kept all that downloaded data received from their paladin - their memories, their ideas, their reactions - for future use. It was only until we came along and restarted the process did the information become accessible.”

“So, the Lions kept this information like in same way Alfor’s AI was programmed?” Hunk added, giving a sympathetic glance at Allura when she swiftly turned away from them.

Pidge paused. “Actually, yes, if you put it that way. Once the bond with our lions becomes strong enough, we gain a stable connection to receive those memories, which can then be seen thorugh a hologram? Or maybe a visual manifestation, with our Lions giving feedback to our brains? Perhaps they intercept our sensory nerves, creating a realistic image of our predecessor despite our Photoreceptor cells not truly seeing them.” She leapt from her seat, making Hunk and Coran stumble back for her chair. “I could program the headsets we use in training to see how this works, maybe install it into our helmets so maybe we or Allura can receive instant statuses on it whilst we communicate with our lions. It might help understand the bond better.”

“Good idea, Pidge.” Allura said, before facing the others, “Whilst Pidge works, I suggest you all put time aside to bond with your lions, and gain a connection with your predecessor. Their memories could be an important asset in understanding and defeating the Empire.”

Pidge nudged an elbow at Hunk, “Wanna lend a hand? I should probably dissemble a headset so I can safely access its software, but I also need to set up my computer for the download.”

Hunk beamed, both of them hurrying out of the bridge in excitement, before Keith interrupted.

“Wait,” Keith said, eyebrows pinched in thought, “Shiro bonded with Black months ago. Does that mean he had to talk to Zarkon?”

They all stared at him, dumbfounded, as the prospect dawned on them.

***
“I look forward to killing you, you unworthy piece of -”

“Black says you should choke and that you look like a crusty slab of ham.” Shiro declared with clarity, not even glancing at the asshole peering other his shoulder like a vulture. “Her words, not mine.”

“You dare -!”

***
“Yep, nope, don’t want to think about it.” Lance broke the silence. The team all gave quick nods in agreements before they parted, Allura’s stern look forcing them to their respective hangers.

Except for Keith - of course - whose thoughtful, conflicted look didn’t pass, as he briskly left the bridge. Lance sighed, shoving his concern onto the metaphorical pile of “things I should probably talk to Keith about if he weren’t a angsty mullet-head” to be reviewed later. For now, he should head to his hanger. He even has some new lines he wants to try out, since Blue always likes that.