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Project Kuron

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“Project Kuron, you say?”

It was a strange, alien name to his ears and yet, from the wicked gleam in Jojak’s bionic eyes, the Commander’s attention was gained and he unfurled the fist of his prosthetic to beckon the holo-screens to become illuminated with the information their top hackers had stumbled across.

As it turned out, killing Janka and absorbing his fleet of information-finders was turning out to be an impromptu but worthwhile enterprise.

“Here sir, this is the feed that we thought you’d find most interesting... given your history with the Paladins of Voltron, of course.”

Ears straightening along with line of his mouth, Sendak was about to rebuke the smarmy little upstart before, to his amazement, a video-feed began to play-out; it was the Champion, his mane long and face bristled in a room devoid of guards. The time-stamp referenced over three months ago and, as he watched, the bothersome creature took full advantage of the incompetency around him and fled the room, rounded a corridor and witnessed...

“What?”

Another of the Druid’s immaculate surgical-rooms came into view and, stretched out comatose amongst a gathering of Haggar’s best technicians was the Champion he knew and recognised; in a similar state of shock, the long haired male recoiled and raced away, a clumsy Sentry hot on his heels to, no doubt, give the illusion of a chase.

“It would appear that our late Emperor’s interest in his favourite human-toy ran far deeper than any could suspect” Jojak tittered, his portly demeanour shifting as he approached the pilot’s chair where a contemplative Sendak continued to observe. “According to the logs, the old witch snatched a few talons worth of DNA from that creature and created the clone you have just witnessed... notice how she orchestrated a likely scenario to keep the doppelganger convinced of his identity? It is actually rather ingenious for a none-Galra, I suppose” he offered with a simpering little smirk.

“And the Project itself?” Sendak grunted, his infinite patience having prevented the rotund data-analyst’s demise.

“According to the logs, sir, it’s a long-term plan first crafted by the Emperor but, it appears, later taken over by Lotor after the Earthling was re-captured five months ago” he responded whilst bringing up several other screens and pointing to each in turn. “Yet, it all started before that, yes, all those cycles ago when we first discovered the humans on the rim of their solar-system. Back then Prisoner 2549 was only being experimented on to see just how viable their species were for Galra-modifications based on his prowess in the area... However, when it was found that our genome count was compatible, the Druids began altering his genetic make-up” he stated as, in the foreground, Shiro’s first escape (assisted by the Blade of Mamora they now knew) played through.

“Weeks later, after the skirmish in which the Altean Princess was liberated, Haggar dealt him a blow and, it is from the essence she pulled free, that the being called Project Kuron was formed... Now, all variations of the plan included a substitution in one way or another to ensure that Kuron was embraced by the Paladins and responsible for piloting the Black Lion. However, Lord Zarkon merely wanted the Lion returned to him and then, his mission complete, the clone would be charged with causing as much damage as possible to the rebellion whilst the Druids would be given free rein to examine the human until it ceased to be useful” he added as a plethora of written communications flashed up to support his claims.

“And Lotor has altered this arrangement?”

Chuckling cruelly, before a sharp glare cut him off, the analyst ducked his head in apology and coughed out a “yes, sir, and with a perversion which smacks of his Altean ancestry” he explained before the comatose human returned to the foreground. “We believe it has been Lotor’s goal to undermine and succeed his father for some time now and that he has actively modified Project Kuron’s mission parameters during his time spent with the Paladins” he furthered. “This would certainly explain why the Black Lion escorted him to the Kral Zera and why our communications spy-ware has been picking up so many arguments across the rebels’ channels” he offered whilst tapping away at his data-pad. “What Lotor’s true objective in terms of Project Kuron is, we cannot say; however...”

At the prod of his immaculate, clawed finger, a new set of images appeared which had Sendak sneering in disgust; “so this is the Champion’s fate? Tch, to do such a thing to a warrior is deplorable” he grunted, his bionic eye roving from screen to screen.

Shackled and confined to a large cushion like some pet, his scarred body naked and bruised in lascivious ways, the man who called himself Shiro (the prosthetic replaced by an organic arm that no-doubt mocked his original one) now sported white tufted Galra ears, purpled claws, amber pupils and a lustrous ebony mixed ivory mane expertly braided to snake down his back whilst bangs framed his pale features.

One image, however, held the Commander’s attention more-so than most; Lotor, his expression cruelly pleased, knelt beside his captive, a hand forcing the hybrid-human to look at his own set of screens.

Each displayed the clone enjoying its time amidst the Paladins; being accepted by the Black Lion, forming Voltron, familial gestures, sharing meals, training, laughing.

And to think that Sendak had thought his Emperor’s ilk to be a soft, spoilt creature whom lacked the military aggression needed to destroy his enemies.

“It would appear that I have grossly underestimated our Lord’s heir” he snorted, his mind whirring with possibilities; “where is Prisoner 2549 being held?”

“In a cloaked space-station orbiting the Valdarian system, sir, should we chart a course or...”

“No, I will take a small team to collect our unexpected boon myself whilst you continue to the rendezvous-point” he stated whilst standing, a smirk curving his lips; “let us see just how friendly the Paladins of Voltron are with the Emperor when this dirty little secret of his is revealed to them, shall we?”

~*~*~*~

The Sentry that force-fed him showed no signs of revulsion or annoyance when he spat a healthy dose of his meal back at it, his fangs flashing fiercely as it simply continued to shove whatever nutritional paste he’d been served towards his lips until the plate had been effectively cleaned.

He was always filthy by the end of ihis sanctioned meal times and usually dragged off to the showers whilst new bedding was being laid out for him; it was routine, it was pointless and yet, right now, it was all he had.

All he was ever going to have...

“Y-you can’t keep me here forever... the others... they’ll not give up, they’ll never stop looking...”

A cruel, condescending laugh and a press of warm lips at his temple: “looking for you? But Shiro, they’ve already found you... just the other day, in fact...”

“W-what?”

“Here, let me show you... there, you see?”

‘Oh God... oh God... no...’

It was him, the spitting image, a carbon-copy... it had to be... the Castle’s sensors would have seen past any kind of disguise or device...

“Do you understand?” the Prince (and every inch the villain his father was) had purred, a clawed hand fixing his jaw in place; “no one is coming for you, no one knows you’re here, with me, your altered body mine to play with, to break, to fuck at my leisure” he’d grinned even as tears beaded up and away from his eyes unbidden.

“No one will save you, no one will ever know... so be a good boy and lie back for me now” he’d murmured, his stronger body pushing him down, spreading him out as he shuddered and shook his head in denial; “this needn’t be too horrible for you if you choose to behave...”

Shuddering at the memory, his form already being dragged limply (he’d long since learned that wrestling with his emotionless metal-guards would only lead to more pain) towards the lavish bathing area, Shiro could only glare at the equally elegant bedspread and tapestry accented walls; a gilded cage, his only view for the past...

God, how long had it been?

How much longer would it be?

Lotor hadn’t visited to gloat or use him in the last twelve cycles... or, was it fourteen?

Everything had started to blur together recently and, outside his routine of feeding-exercise-feeding-exercise-feeding-sleep, the lighting never changed and the one window he had access to just continued its mocking display of the same unfamiliar stars with the odd ship which, he knew, couldn’t scan, let alone see the Station he was trapped on.

“I... I want to go home...” he heard himself breath when he was hoisted into the bathing pool, the synthetic water beating a steady stucco across his skin from a shower-like device whilst tactless metal hands tugged his hair loose and scrubbed across him as he trembled and sluggishly slipped in an attempt to stand.

“I want to go home... I want to go home... please...”

Every day was the same...

~*~*~*~

Gaining access to the base, since Janka’s crew had been so adept at thievery, was laughably easy.

“Your orders, sir?”

“Disable all active Sentries, collect any valuable data and return to the shuttle within the hour” he stated whilst strolling his way towards the royal-brat’s private quarters; “once we’ve taken everything we need, we’ll blow this structure to particles and begin phase two of our plan” he added, a fang-laced smile stretching his lips.

“Leave phase one to me...”

~*~*~*~

The sound of an explosion rocketing through the Station accompanied by a series of loud, irritating sirens had Shiro blinking out of his light sleep (and a wonderful dream about his childhood) and snapping his head to where he knew the door to Lotor’s expansive quarters were.

Not that he could really remember being brought to the peach, ebony and white crested rooms, but that was the direction his captor always walked in from; shit, if only the bed, with its damned, chain-linked four-posters and sheer, silken curtains wasn’t blocking his way...

Don’t think about the bed... it won’t be him... he wouldn’t damage his own base... it’s probably pirates or a malfunction or...

The door swooshed open amidst the computerised voice warning about atmospheric pressure drops harped over the whoops of the alarms; oh God, were the Sentries coming to...

“Hello there, Champion.”

Oh shit...

Towering over him, an old nightmare made flesh, Commander Sendak (imposing, dressed in the crimson and onyx of his trade, his yellow eye imperiously cold in its observation) offered him the same wide, chilling smile he had before being jettisoned into space all those months ago; “y-you...

“Heh, how the mightyhave fallen” the mauve creature crooned, his new, monstrous arm snapping out to snag him in widening, quintessence bright talons, the force of its grab shattering the chains which had laced him to languish beside the cold, metal wall; yelping, his bruised body trying to curl into itself, Shiro felt his new ears flatten in pain and horror.

N-no! P-put me dow-n!” he cried out, his eyes screwing shut as he was brought closer for the true Galra’s inspection; this wasn’t happening, it couldn’t be real...

“Pitiful” Sendak sneered; “if you had only listened to me during our last encounter then, perhaps, all of this could have been avoided” he added before turning, his charge’s pathetically weak struggles barely registering with his onboard A.I. as he continued to hold him near eye-level.

“W-what are you doing here?” the mixed-blood tried as they exited the large chamber, his body panting with fatigue and distress; “h-how did you...”

“Save what little strength that coward’s left you with by keeping your mouth shut” the older ordered, his ebony coated legs confidently striding down the red-flashing-halls as though he was merely strolling through a park on a summer’s day; blinking through his bangs, Shiro could on gawp at the dismembered Sentries and laser-burnt walls ensconcing them.

None of this made sense; “i-if you’re going to ki-ll me, th-en just...”

“Tch, such weak talk... it becomes harder to believe that you were ever the Black Paladin...”

“I...”

“You, what? Are you the leader of Voltron or some little, mixed-breed whore of Lotor’s, hmm?” he sneered, his face full of challenge as he smirked and flicked his prosthetic’s thumb across the most vicious bite-mark scar which emblazoned the other’s creamy neck.

Bastard!” the younger howled, a flash of anger spurred adrenaline helping him to push and dislodge the fingers clasping him even as his bruises and fractures screamed at him in protest. “I am no one’s whore!” he snarled, his stamina short lived as he stumbled onto the debris scattered floor, his legs threatening to give out.

Watching the display, his features neutral against the passion now sparking in what had been dull, fear-deadened eyes, Sendak offered a curt nod before returning to his walk down the corridor; “good” he called. “Then the choice is yours, Champion” he said, his head tilting to view him over his massive, mechanised shoulder; “you are free to stay and die here or you can follow me, become strong again and avenge yourself... I’ll not force you either way, however, should you choose to live I will expect a favour in exchange, remember that...”

~*~*~*~

Maybe he was insane...

The Galra staring at his naked body, their ears and noses twitching virtually in time with his own, didn’t feel quite as awful as Lotor staring down at him when he was bent over, stretched out, chained to the wall and dripping...

He shuddered, his gaze going off into the distance whilst the feel of long, clawed fingers raking over his sides and the sting of razor sharp teeth tearing his shoulder even as the blunt force of the other’s length thrust into him, breaching him, violating him as he screamed and begged...

“Losing yourself here will only make things worse for you...”

Snapping his head to the right, his eyes momentarily wild whilst his Galra arm (flesh, useless in a fight outside of its marginally stronger bone-structure and talons) poised itself as his prosthetic would have done when preparing to fight, Shiro blinked and nearly faltered.

You’re not there anymore... you’re not safe... but you’re not there’ he reminded himself even as Sendak stood, clearly waiting for him whilst his crew (their curious looks swiftly diverting after a glare or two) carried out their tasks within the shuttle-bay.

“S-sorry” he murmured; “I... clothes would be...”

“Of course” the Commander snorted; the shuttle they’d travelled in had only carried what they needed, after all, and so things like sustenance and clothing had needed to wait.

Or so he’d let the Black Paladin believe; building up dependency and trust, he knew, was what would win him the greatest advantages in the end as he sought to turn Voltron’s pilots into a tool willing to crush Lotor and his mislead followers.

“I’ve ensured that quarters befitting your rank as a pilot of repute have been prepared... a meal will be brought to you and a set of Lieutenant’s uniforms are ready for you to dress in” he stated before nodding sharply at a short, stocky female who approached with a data-pad cradled in one arm. “This is Cetchra, she will be your guard and chaperone whilst you’re a guest here” he stated as the feline woman saluted him with a fist to her ample, armour protected bosom. “In two hours, you will join me on the Bridge and you will grant me the favour I am owed, do you understand?”

“Yes... I... ah, thank you...”

“Tch, don’t be so quick to thank me, yet” he snorted, his bionic eye flashing; “I’ll not be getting your vengeance for you... we merely have a shared enemy for the time-being, that is all” he reminded before turning on booted heels and prowling towards a group of men who saluted and marched in his wake.

“Lieutenant?”

Refocusing his gaze on the blue and green tinged Galra, her eyes the full yellow of a true member of their race, Shiro tried to offer her a smile before he remembered that such gestures meant very different things in their culture.

“I’m ready” he breathed, his words causing the woman to nod and walk away; following her, his mind doggedly on auto-pilot, the former human tried to keep himself together just a little longer; if this was a dream, then so be it. However, on the off chance that this was all real, that he’d been freed, rode in a shuttle and was now on Sendak’s ship as a bargaining-chip and not a prisoner, well, he’d find a way to keep going.

He’d find a way home...

Chapter Text

The black body-suit clung to him in a way that he’d long since grown used to and yet, when he reviewed himself (whilst trying to ignore the hollowness around his eyes) in the mirror, the glaring yellow glinting from its crimson chest-plate reminiscent of the monstrous DNA he housed, he felt more wrong.

More alien...

“Tch... never-mind these damned ears” he muttered to the gentle hum of the room (not a cage, not a plush, peach cushion alongside a bed) as his hands (both Galra-flesh, no longer human, not really) moved to touch the fur-lined tips; God, he looked like those anime cat-people his little brothers would rave about.

Heh, who’d have thought that he’d miss teasing his siblings over their love of cartoons?

His knees nearly buckled under the weight of his loneliness, then, his longing for home, for family, for his friends becoming almost too much to bear whilst the faces of the Paladins, Allura, Coran (God, even the mice) flashed before his mind’s eye.

His second family, his team; a team who harboured a traitor, a true monster in their midst...

Scowling, his courage and resolve coming to the fore, Shiro purposefully lengthened his claws (the collar he’d been forced to wear would have shocked him for his trouble) to rake his long hair back and into a pony-tail at the nape of his neck; as soon as he could, he’d cut it all off but, for now, since that wasn’t an option, he refused to wear it in a braid.

”See, doesn’t that look pretty? It’s almost like a leash now that it’s grown so long... hmm... should I try to choke you with it whilst I fuck you? Would you like that, Takashi?”

Shuddering with revulsion, the Black Paladin (if he could still call himself that) turned away from his visage, pulled on the gloves he’d been provided with and cast a sceptical glance at the grey goo he’d been brought. Then, his nose (with its Galra-heightened sense of smell) deciding that it wasn’t poisonous (and his stomach making further, compelling arguments), he picked up the spork provided and began to eat, his fangs effortlessly slicing through the sticky-sweet texture until, to his surprise, there was nothing left.

Huh...

~*~*~*~

His chaperone was typically tight-lipped as she led him towards the Bridge; not that he wanted to talk, really, but it’d been so long since he’d been in company...

“Where are we heading?”

“Classified.”

“Do you know the location of Allura’s vessel?”

“No.”

“Lotor told me that Keith, the Red Paladin, was no longer a part of the team...”

“The hybrid designated as Keith is currently affiliated with the Blade of Marmora terrorist group” the female sighed, her tone long-suffering as she cast a meaningful look at the data-pad she was tapping on; “the Altean Princess now serves as the Blue Paladin and that is all I know” she huffed, her cheeks puffing (not adorably, she was Galra) with exasperation.

Trying not to smile (flashing your teeth was, apparently, a threatening gesture one didn’t use unless you were challenging or mocking someone), Shiro instead offered a little head nod as an apology; one of the only bonuses granted by his captivity had been access to numerous data-pads full of Galran culture and habits.

With any luck, he could use what he’d learned to keep on Sendak’s good-side and, speaking of which...

“Ah, there you are, come here” the taller male ordered, his bionic eye flashing; “we’ll be meeting a secondary fleet who’ve detached from Lotor’s Empire shortly and I want a full update on anything and everything you know about him and his plans in the meantime” he stated, a small team of Galra crowding him to, no doubt, take notes.

Blinking (however, he knew he shouldn’t have been surprised), Shiro sucked in a breath and looked from towering alien to towering alien; “I’m not sure how much help I can be” he warned, his gaze drifting to the holo-screens bobbing about them. “Lotor wasn’t exactly forthcoming when it came to valuable information” he said, his amber irises darkening when he tried to think of anything the Prince turned Emperor may have divulged during his chattier moments.

“Hm? No interesting pillow-talk then, that’s a ye-owch!

Watching, and more than a little stunned, the newly formed hybrid almost baulked as the Galra who’d started degrading him face-planted the floor whilst Sendak, his prosthetic fizzling with quintessence, regarded the dropped man with disdain. “You will address a Lieutenant with the respect his rank deserves or you’ll be demoted and forced to attend basic training all over again, is that understood, Valdek?”

Grunting and rubbing his head, the slightly shorter man bowed with a murmured “vrepit, sa” before standing and bowing lowly at (a still thoroughly flabbergasted) Shiro; “I am sorry, sir” he said, his voice clear and loud. “Do you accept my apology?”

“Ugh... yeah, sure, don’t worry about it” was the only thing the former human could pass through his lips as he wondered (for about the millionth time in these past two years) if this wasn’t just some crazy, coma dream.

Oh, how he wished it was...

“Thank you, sir” Valdek replied whilst straightening; at no point did his yellow eyes dare move to an inch within Sendak’s darkened countenance.

“Tch, now that that has been resolved, let us continue as any information could be valuable” the Commander redirected curtly; “state everything you know.”

~*~*~*~

Kolivan scowled thoughtfully at the image one of their spy-drones had captured; why in the Universe would Sendak destroy a cloaked space-station which had been floating quietly inside neutral, virtually uninhabited territory?

“Sir, it would appear that they took something or, rather, somebody from the structure before they blasted it” Satry reported whilst she brought up recorded feed from the drone they’d managed to attach to the Commander’s fleet. Its thermal sensors showed an additional body inside the shuttle they’d chosen to follow.

“I see” he murmured; “have you been able to decrypt the communication logs we managed to pull?”

“No sir” the young woman sighed, her blue accented eyes narrowing; “Janka’s team of communication specialists are using software that we just can’t hope to match” she added softly before her features hardened with resolution. “Not that we’ll stop trying... however, the best way to find out who that person is might be to send in Krolia and Keith... they’re just about a day’s journey away from Sendak’s last known location” she advised, her ears twitching in thought.

Rumbling in ascent, the Blade of Marmora’s leader nodded; “contact them immediate” he instructed the room at large, his own ears perking as he narrowed his gaze upon the thermal image. “Assign measures for recognisance only... they’ve already had to contend with one super-weapon, so may the Gods grant us a stroke of luck when it comes to this” he stated whilst, around him, his team began to move.

~*~*~*~

“Um, sir, he doesn’t look too well...”

Huffing, his folded arms tightening, Shiro came back out of his thoughts, his ramblings (that’d just started pouring out of him) with a lick of dry lips and a flex of his booted feet (shit, had he been tilting?); “ugh, I’m sorry, I...”

“That will be enough, for now” Sendak decided, a grunt sending the scribes skittering away; “knowing about Lotor’s supporters in the Nekron-cluster is a good start as we can easily undermine any progress he intends to make by crippling their weapons manufactory-planets” he mused before gesturing towards the Bridge’s primary exit.

Following in the Galra’s wake, the hybrid doggedly ignored the (not exactly subtle) looks being slanted his way; hell, it was like being naked all over again.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” he found himself asking when they were (somewhat) alone, their footfalls echoing down the metal, Sentry accented corridors; “the last time we met...”

“You jettisoned me into space?” the older snorted and, Shiro would be damned, but the other almost sounded amused by the whole thing; “did you not know that that was exactly what I wanted you to do? My mind was linked to the castle, to you and by that time I’d purposefully influenced the Altean to fly us over a planet which housed a temporary Galran outpost so I could land, think and find a way to salvage my tarnished honour” he replied, the brow ridge above his natural eye quirking.

“So... all of that, that madness was you?!” the hybrid accused hotly, his feet scuffing to a halt; “you corrupted King Alfor’s code and sent us on a collision course with a star?”

“Again, you are surprised? Truly? We are enemies, after-all” the full-blood chuckled; “the only difference between then and now is that we have a common threat and you are instrumental in ensuring that Voltron’s fury is directed at Lotor as opposed to me... for the time being, of course.”

“Of course” the other huffed, his tone bitter before he started after the other’s long strides away, the Galra’s words playing around his fractured mind; “wait... so I wasn’t imagining things... you were really talking to me through my mind?”

“We are connected” the other shrugged as though having some kind of mental link with him was completely normal; “communication on that level, especially when in close proximity to the other, is not unusual” he added whilst, with little ceremony, he gestured at a door.

It was the quarters he’d been assigned; how had they gotten here so quickly?

“But, what does that mean? I don’t understand... none of the manuals Lotor gave me access to...”

“And as much as I’d love to stand here all cycle and chat, Champion, I do have a fleet to run, deals to make and an Empire to reclaim” Sendak drawled, his palm activating the door; “whilst you’re not needed, you’ll be confined to this room and so, if I were you, I’d get some further rest” he stated, his expression pulling into a smirk that had Shiro’s hackles raising.

“Next cycle, we’ll be getting in touch with your friends and it’d probably be worth your while not to look like something a Weblum spat out when we do...”

Chapter Text

Lying on his (surprisingly comfortable) futon, his eyes closed yet fully awake, Shiro tried once more to reach out to the Black Lion, to his team, as he’d somehow managed to a few cycles ago whilst still in captivity.

“If only I knew what caused it” he muttered to the purposefully darkened room; “God... Lance, I was so close, I knew you could hear me... unless it was all a dream” he added quietly.

He’d long since gotten used to talking to himself; he was trying to convince himself that it was a method to cope, stay sane and yet...

“Only crazy people talk to themselves” he reminded through a chuckle which died in his throat mere moments later. “Fuck... did I really see them all? Did the Lion somehow transport my conscious to them? Is that what happened between Sendak and me? But then, he isn’t a Paladin... Was he one in the past or... or was it the Druids that connected us, maybe when I was in the arena?” he wondered, his tired body begging for rest, for sleep.

God, he was so tired...

A chiming noise had him sitting up at such speeds he nearly fell out of his cabin-bed; was it time for him to contact the Castle? Shit... shit he wasn’t ready to...

“If you are not incapacitated when I deactivate this lock I will be incredibly displeased...”

Blinking, his Galra-enhanced body moving before he knew what was happening, Shiro was palming open the door and close to head-butting the Commander’s chest-plate, his bangs momentarily obscuring his vision as he back-peddled with a gasp.

“Umm... sorry, I was...”

“You require an evening meal and a sedative” the full-blood stated, his luminous yellow eye narrowing as it assessed him; “your thoughts are distracting me from my work and stop apologising... it is unbecoming for a warrior of your calibre...”

What?” the former human baulked, his astonishment cutting through the other’s words; “I don’t... you can hear my... I’m a... what?”

Huffing, his hulking form radiating just how unimpressed he was by the display, Sendak instead pushed past the long-haired male, his flesh hand effortlessly and flawlessly keeping the tray he’d brought with him straight and aloft as he entered the room.

“We are connected...”

So you keep saying!” the younger yipped whilst spinning on his heels to follow the Galran to the small table and chair set across from the bed; “but that doesn’t tell me just what in the hell that actually means!” he ground out, his ears fanning out widely with his exasperation.

Snorting, his tray deposited, the Commander again regarded his guest with that same, infuriating neutrality which was clawing its way under Shiro’s skin faster than a Govokian-tick...

Wait, Govokian-tick? Where had...

“Heh, so the bond isn’t one-sided” Sendak murmured before taking a seat, his head tilting in contemplation; “this is quite the annoying development and a complication I hadn’t been anticipating” he sighed, his expression unreadable as they regarded each other within the relatively small, dim-violet lit room.

“Ugh! Will you stop speaking in riddles already? God! You people! Haven’t you put me through enough?” he demanded, the heat of his tone dulling as he slumped into the adjacent chair, his claw-retracted fingers scrubbing over his face as he struggled to keep himself in check.

“Humans, strangely, are incredibly close to Galran’s in a number of genetic ways” the full-blood stated smoothly whilst pushing the tray towards the mixed-breed; “or so the Druids told me when they took samples of essence from the female I was to mate and began lacing them into yours” he added, his tone unaltered even as Shiro’s head snapped up.

“She was from a Sect which bore strong, superior offspring and although we never met, the bonding process had been initiated in ways I won’t waste time explaining... all that mattered was her levels of competency and I was pleased, I suppose, that the Emperor had made such a fine match for me... However, in a spat with what should have been a small, easily subdued uprising, she was terminated; it was a great pity, really, but no true loss for the Empire...”

“So, this bonding process” the younger cut in; he couldn’t stand to hear another, unsympathetic word leech from the alien’s mouth (’they don’t care about each other, they don’t care about losing people’). “That’s what’s connected us? This link you had with her and now, what? You can hear my thoughts? Shit... this was meant to happen, wasn’t it? That female was picked to be used in their damned experiments so you could keep tabs on me” he reasoned, his amber irises narrowing; “is there any way to, I don’t know, stop it or...”

“Outside of me tearing your throat out, you mean?” the Galra chuckled through a taunting, little smirk.

Jerking (shit, so the other was in his head), the former human swallowed through a gulp and nodded; even at full strength (and with a straight head) they both knew he had little hope of beating the Commander in a fight and so just trying to gain as much information as he could would have to suffice for now.

“Tch, your kind thinks far too dramatically for my liking” he snorted; “perhaps, in time, your Galran instincts will...”

“No! No! I’ll never allow myself to become some, some senseless, unfeeling monster like you!” Shiro snapped, his body standing and upsetting the chair he’d sat on in the process; “how can you not value life? How can you see caring about others a weakness and laugh when people are tortured and killed and...”

“Oh? And humans are so different in that regard, are they?” Sendak chuckled, his lips parting in a dark-parody of a smile; “we’ve been looking into your planet Earth ever since we found you and those snivelling, meek creatures” he added with a little shrug. “Mass-shootings at educational facilities, famine, war, abject poverty, the raping and molesting of children... Why yes, your former species definitely makes the Empire seem barbaric...”

“But that’s in our past and it was not all of us, that’s not...”

“Hmm? Isn’t it rather cliché for a seasoned killer like you to be arguing morality with me, Champion?” the older sneered, his body posture the very definition of relaxed.

“And who made me the Champion of that hell-hole, huh?! We were just minding our own business! I was twenty-three and it was my first big mission and then you bastards came along and...”

“Yes, yes, I keep forgetting that lesser beings have problems letting go of past events...”

“Says the guy who is desperate to become Emperor even though Lotor’s already claimed the position” Shiro hissed, a grin pulling his lips when the other’s countenance darkened a fraction, his smile having lowered into a scowling sneer.

“Touché” he rumbled whilst leaning a little further into the table, a flicker of quintessence sparking across his prosthetic; “however, isn’t it better that I be looking to usurp Lotor’s position whereas you, Takashi Shirogane, have already been usurped by him haven’t you, in a manner of speaking?”

“Tch! What’s the matter, you jealous?”

Whoa... where the hell had that come from?

Blinking, his body back-tracking when Sendak stood and rounded him, his much larger frame blocking any possible escape, Shiro could only gasp as the cold metal wall shocked through his back; “I...”

“Make no mistake” the Commander breathed, his prosthetic slamming into the panelling beside the (not panicking, definitely not panicking) shorter male’s head; “if I wanted to, I could bend you over that table and have you scream, beg and moan so loudly that your precious Paladin’s would hear you” he virtually purred. “But unlike Lotor and the more depraved members of your former ilk I am a man of honour and I have no interest in mating an unwilling partner” he growled, a thigh sliding between the mixed-blood’s trembling legs.

At the touch, the pilot felt a quiver trill up his spine; he could barely breath, think or move as his head (completely against his will; this had never happened when Lotor had touched him) tilted to the side, allowing the Galra to run his nose up his shoulder and neck as he fucking whimpered.

O-oh God... what was happening?

Are you unwilling, Takashi?”

Yipping, his body slouching bonelessly down the wall when that thigh (which had been so expertly pressed against him) was suddenly retracted, Shiro gawped as Sendak (smug, point clearly proven) prowled towards the door, his grin positively shit-eating. “Devour your meal then take the sedative so that I can get some work done and, when you wake, you can reflect on how best to contact that former team of yours” he ordered, the chamber opening to the corridor beyond.

“Then, if you like, we can carry on this, hmm, conversation in a more private setting...”

~*~*~*~

Scowling at his reflection (but God, did he look like his mother even more so now), Keith readjusted the armour which designated him (and his new, purple, fur-lined face) as a member of (fuck everything) Sendak’s crew before double checking the watch-like device which effectively cloaked his human colouring and traits.

Pidge would go wild when he showed it to her...

“Not bad, Keithra” his mother stated, a smile lighting her eyes as she stood behind him; “although I miss the look of my mate upon you... it has been far too long since my last visit” she murmured softly, her face dropping to a more neutral expression.

“Mom...”

“I appreciate the title, truly” she said, her hands tightening their grip upon his shoulders; “I will do everything I can to earn it but, for now...”

“No family is safe whilst the Galran Empire tries to reform under him” the younger creature sneered, his hands flexing into fists, their eyes regarding each other through the looking glass; “the mission has to come first...”

~*~*~*~

Aboard the Castle of Lions, their eyes trained upon the space-time anomaly (and the huge, terrifying entity which guarded it) no one on the Bridge could hear the beeping emanating from Lotor’s quarters.

Lotor to, his body having been transported beyond the reality they existed in, could not know of the space-station’s distress signal chirping out as he sought to gain the knowledge, the power needed to create quintessence, subdue Voltron and bring all four of its (currently free) Paladins under his control.

The mice, however, their keen sense of hearing and a strange pull urging them to investigate, were soon rooting about the Galra Emperor’s chamber, their analytical eyes observing and flicking over the alien texts which blared out a message and flashed up images of hallways and rooms exploding in quick succession.

Blinking, the troupe of Altean rodents shared nods before lifting and carrying the whirring little data-tablet away with them, their tails twitching in time with the bleeps.

Something about this thing meant trouble and they were not allowing the male that smelt like their Shiro in pain get his mitts on it if possible and so, their resolve tightened, they returned to their seclusion to await the Lions’ further instructions...

Chapter Text

Blinking awake, his eyes rapidly adjusted to the dim light as he took in a deep, relieved sigh; he was still free of Lotor and that place, thank God.

“Lieutenant Shirogane?”

Starting, his eyes widening when the chest-plate of the armour (shit, the sedative had worked so quickly that he’d not had time to remove it) flashed magenta, the human tentatively pressed at the light (as he’d seen other Galra do) and tried a “yes?”

“Your presence is requested in conference room two-b; a drone has been sent to guide you” a female voice (not belonging to his chaperone from the cycle before) stated; “do you require anything or are you able to leave immediately?”

Taking a tic to gather his bearings, the mixed-blood felt his ears flatten at the prospect of leaving this room (the closest thing to a safe-haven he’d had in a long time) to be dragged through whatever machinations Sendak had cooked up.

However, the longer he put it off, the longer his friends were being deceived; the new Emperor could be plotting, undermining and ready to harm them any cycle now.

He couldn’t let that happen...

“No, I’m ready” he breathed out, his legs pushing him up and walking him towards the room’s only exit.

Upon reaching the door, he palmed the lock-pad and walked into the hallway, his amber irises widening when the purple pyramid (his mind brought up images of Pidge and Rover to both momentarily brighten then darken his mood) scanned him, chirped and floated away.

Shrugging, the long-haired male followed after it, his curious eyes meeting the equally curious (some annoyed, others snooty) gazes of the few men and women he passed, his ears twitching at the fragments of conversations they could catch.

“We have arrived, sir.”

“Hmm? Oh, right, uhh... thank you?” he replied whilst the little, floating device beeped curtly and flew away; “wow... even Galran tech is unfriendly” he muttered before, after another sigh (and repressing the urge to nervously tuck his hair or rub the back of his neck), he requested access via a small door-chime.

Then, the metal barrier sliding out of the way, Shiro entered and was, with a (quite unmanly and definitely surprised) squeak, tackled to the ground, a hand smashing over his mouth whilst the door sealed shut.

Shuddering, the former human did his best to calm himself as his mind registered the luminous mask peering down at him.

The Blade of Marmora?

Keeff?

Jerking at the name, the lithe figure (definitely Keith) was suddenly pressing a very active, very hot blade near his neck, its presence sending a cold splash of fear and betrayal coursing over him until he realised, with a blink, that he didn’t look at all like himself.

He was part Galra now; from the fur-lined ears to the amber-eyes and clawed fingers attached to his new hand and the original one, he must have looked like some kind of Frankenstein’s monster dressed in the mangled skin of the younger man’s friend and Leader.

The thought alone made him want to wretch...

“Keithra, let him up” the woman (the same voice from the drone) instructed; “if he makes any kind of move I’ll finish him myself but, right now, we need answers and you need a cooler head” she stated firmly, her own face similarly covered.

Snarling, the younger male pulled himself up and away even as Shiro struggled against the tears he felt forming in his eyes; Keith was alive, he was with Kolivan and the Blades which meant he, at least, was okay, was not threatened by Lotor’s tightening grasp.

“Don’t you dare look like that! Not with his face!” the former Red Paladin hissed; “you...”

Keithra” the other freedom-fighter chided, her form kneeling to look the hybrid in the eye: “we are...”

“The Blade of Marmora, I know” the former human cut in, his voice quiet but only lightly strained as he sat up, a wary eye watching for Keith’s swift, dagger wielding hands; “I’ve met quite a few of you before, your Leader Kolivan and I know each other because Ulaz rescued...”

“Tch! They’ve even given it his memories!” the younger spat, his body vibrating with anger and a hatred Shiro could taste in the air; “it can’t be allowed to live, it’s a liability...”

“Project Kuron” he cut in, a flare of desperation spurring him on; “please, before you do anything else” he tried, his voice wobbling at the thought of Keith seeing him in bondage under Lotor’s smug smirk. “J-just hack into the system, search for that information...”

“They needn’t bother.”

Gasping, all three of the conference-room’s occupants jerked, blinked and stared whilst one of the partition walls gave way to allow Sendak and two Sentries entrance, his bionic eye luminous as he assessed them; “I am more than happy to share the information if you ask nicely” he stated, his lips quirked in the parody of a toothless smile.

You!”

“Now, now, Red Paladin, if that’s still a title you can claim” the true Galra snorted; “there is no need for such hostilities” he added with a light shrug. “The enemy of my enemy being my ally may not ring true for us just now, however, I can think of no better Organisation than yours to help me deal with Lotor once your friends and their Lions are onboard, of course...”

“You bastard!” the smallest of the chamber’s warriors seethed, his dagger sizzling to life. “What the fuck have you done?! How dare you make this... this thing!” he spat, his weapon swinging dangerously close to Shiro (who swiftly scooted back to stand, his motions only halting when the masked female pointed her gun at him).

“Hmm? Oh, that” Sendak chuckled darkly; “do you not like the improvements Lord Zarkon put in place?” he asked, his smile morphing seamlessly into a devious smirk. “I find them rather lovely if I’m honest...”

“You piece of shit! I’ll...”

“Stand-down, Keithra!” the woman barked, her tone commanding whilst the luminous mask she worse pivoted from the youngest man to the older; “the Commander already holds the advantage” she reasoned, her shoulders tensing. “We’re listening” she added curtly, her stance shifting slightly; “what is this... Project Kuron?”

~*~*~*~

He was glad, for once, that his stomach was empty.

“O-oh... fuck, I... what... no... this can’t... he isn’t... you are not Shiro! This is all some... some trick to turn our forces against Lotor... It has to be!”

Looking at Keith’s heart-broken expression (the tears they were both fighting back clearly going unheeded by the true Galra around them), the newest hybrid sank a little lower into the chair he’d slipped into; seeing himself on the screens, each still-image pricking at the real memories of his second bout of captivity, was pretty hard to bear.

No wonder Sendak’s Officers had been looking at him so crudely since he’d arrived; swallowing thickly, the former human tried to keep himself from wretching even as the woman, Krolia, was given access to the time-stamps and data.

“This... footage is genuine” she admitted quietly, her unmasked face grim whilst she regarded her son’s idol; “I can’t imagine” she breathed before, a scowl setting in, she snapped her head towards Sendak. “If what you say is true, then we’ll be taking the Shirogane with us and contact you after we’ve spoken to...”

“I’m afraid that I can’t allow that” the Commander stated, the purple quintessence glinting in the orb of his prosthetic arm flaring; “for whatever perverted and despicable reason, the new Emperor has laid a claim upon him and that, I think, gives me an advantage I shan’t merely allow you to take...”

What?!” the youngest hybrid snarled, his expression becoming more and more distressed as he struggled to stay where he stood, his whole body trembling; “no! I’m not leaving him here, with you! I...”

“You really have little choice, whelp” Sendak chuckled, his smirk returning whilst, at a tap of his arm-guard, he swapped the scenes of Shiro’s abuse with that of Sentries guarded all about the room alongside several (heavily armed) Galran soldiers. “I allowed you to board this vessel, I allowed you to retrieve your friend from his locked-quarters and I even took the liberty of ensuring that you could meet here with just enough disruption that you’d believe the scenario to be real” he reasoned, his chuckle dark.

“T’was a trick I learned thanks to the Project and so I found it fitting...”

“You’re a fucking monster!” Keith accused hotly before finally breaking and rushing to Shiro’s side; “if he’s staying then so am I...”

“Keithra...”

“N-no, no Keith... you can’t, I...”

I’m not leaving you again!” the young man close to howled, his knees buckling so that he knelt next to the other mixed-blood’s chair.

“No” the Commander snorted; “I have enough problems to resolve without hosting a temperamental brat with a Blade’s skill-set” he huffed, his natural eye narrowing in a glare. “Take the data with you, contact the Paladins and, if you all agree that the clone and its master are to be despatched only then can we start negotiating in earnest” he stated, all trace of mockery or malice fleeing to bland neutrality. “Lotor must be dethroned and true order restored...”

“So that’s your game” Krolia hissed; “and why should we trade his rule for yours? Surely you can’t believe that the Blade of Marmora would assist you in your bid for power...”

“Tch, don’t talk as though I need you, Kolivan or his rag-tag group of misfits” he snorted. “No, if I am to succeed my master and re-unify the Empire then I shall do it through my own merits, my own work through those who are loyal to me” he said, his gaze shifting to Shiro (who was now stood and holding the still quietly sobbing Keith). “The only reason why I’ve even bothered to approach the Paladin’s through you is because you were snooping around anyway and their current standing with Lotor is problematic... Heh, but their fury at their comrades treatment should easily rectify this now, shouldn’t it?” he mused. “Then, with Voltron pursuing him to ensure that... ah, justice is done, I have one less head-ache and the Champion will be offered an opportunity for vengeance as is only proper under the Laws of T’shnal” he furthered, his tone serious as the female blinked at him, her purple eyes widening.

You practise the sacred code of warriors?” she asked.

“I am a warrior” the tallest member of the room grunted; “now take your get and be on your way before I change my mind... I will leave hyper-wave-frequency 158 open for you to contact me” he furthered, his eye narrowing further when Keith made no motion to move. “If I hear nothing back from you in three cycles then I’ll assume that you haven’t passed on the information about the Project and...”

“We understand” Krolia cut in, her frown sharp; “and I want your word, on the Axis, that no further harm will come to that child” she warned. “Do that, and we’ll take care of everything else within a cycle... but you must know that this truce, alignment of forces or whatever else you’d like to call it, is only temporary” she reminded. “We will not allow another Zarkon to rise from his ashes...”

“Feh, do not talk as though you could stop me from realising any ambition I might have” he huffed imperiously, his right brow-ridge quirking; “however, I will swear upon the Axis... now get off my ship before I throw you off...”

~*~*~*~

Watching the cloaked (no doubt thanks to Pidge) ship shimmer into the background, a lone Galran guard brought up the messaging system attached to her arm-guard; Emperor Lotor still hadn’t read any of the communications she’d sent.

Scowling, the visor of her helmet flashing, she began typing another one: “the asset is still on-board, BOM is now aware of Kuron, contact with POV imminent; orders?