Shiro felt the escape pod lurch underneath him, felt the descent to earth. When the doors open and he stumbles out he collapses. He’s in the middle of the desert, he has to find someone, he can’t die, he has to find someone to help, they’re coming, the Galra are coming. The stuff of nightmares hunting for a weapon, hunting for Voltron.
How does he know this? He can’t remember, he only knows he needs to warn them.
Then the Garrison trucks arrive, he smiles, then the hazmat team disembarks, his arm activates and with a pulse he knocks them off their feet. “No, stop, you don’t understand!”
He’s tackled, he’s weak from captivity from the crash, from any number of things he can’t remember.
Sendak’s flag ship is, big, and complex, it’s the first time he’s had free reign or somewhat free reign, of a dreadnought. Lotor’s frigate was larger and better equipped than most, not because he’s the prince, well not entirely because he’s the prince, Lotor adopts any useful tech, strategy, or weapon from those they conquer.
Even so a frigate is much smaller than even the smallest battle cruiser. The first people he meets are Haxus, and Sendak, neither of whom he particularly likes.
Sendak is constantly barking orders and pejoratives like the childish bully he thinks he’s above being.
Haxus is worse, he outranks Haxus but that doesn’t stop the sub-commander, more like glorified secretary, from running to Sendak whenever he feels Keith’s being too mean to him.
Is it any wonder Keith gravitates to the only other non-sentry life form on board?
Merla wasn’t kidding, her great nephew Kajier is definitely a cold aloof scientist. He at first seemed to tolerate Keith and barely at that.
Keith however has learned to be patient, and silent, and unobtrusive.
Eventually Kajier not only grew to accept his presence in his lab but also relish it. Ranting and raving like a mad scientist about all the things he could “do with their sentries if he just had the resources!” And that Sendak refuses to give him more than “the absolute basics and how is he expected to research one of the most advanced pieces of technology in the history of the universe when he’s forced to work with lublum gum and string!”
Neither would admit to being anything other than “allies in hostile territory.”
(They’re friends, friends by necessity but friends all the same.)
So maybe if Keith called in the favor he’d built with Fiora during his coming of age ceremony to secure an extra shipment during their last resource drop, no one commented.
Well Haxus commented, or more accurately Haxus whined, a lot.
Keith did not punch him, and he’s very proud of that fact, whatever uncle Thace might say about his impulse control a deca-phoeb on this ship has taught him many wondrous things about self control.
Maybe a short time after those extra parts came a new sentry appeared, one with advanced adaptive AI and a couple very interesting weapons, and programmed to be a loyal second to Keith.
Keith named it Niex, because that’s what you do with things like this.
Okay if Lance and Hunk are going to be here the least they could do is make themselves useful and help her get Shiro out of here. She decides to hack the auto steering of a couple of the Garrison cars, along with the drones they brought to scope the place out for radiation.
The drones were a distraction, Lance is the rescue team, though he’s mostly just there to trip up the guards while she frees Shiro who, okay he’s injured but that arm packs a scary punch.
Shiro’s different, she can tell, his year in space, which is now clearly a year spent as an alien prisoner, has hardened him in ways she probably doesn’t want to know about.
Hunk makes a surprisingly good get away driver, no one wants to spend the night in a burnt out shack in the middle of the desert, but it’s not like any of them have a choice.
Pidge breaks and talks about the energy signature she’s been monitoring. Hunk identifies it as a Fraunhofer line and that he can probably whip up something to track it. Which given all the Garrison tech they accidentally stole with their getaway car isn’t too difficult.
There’s also the stuff she intentionally stole from them but no one needs to know about that just yet.
Lance identifies the line as a rock ridge, because apparently her and Hunk “spending time as tech buddies left him a lot of time to be bored out of his skull.”
Which led to him exploring local landmarks and becoming a minor history nerd. Shiro’s actually kind of proud of Lance, because they’re both history nerds, and now Lance wont stop preening.
Because “did you hear that Shiro just complimented me!”
“Yes Lance, I did hear you the first fifty times, and yes I will hear you next fifty,” Pidge growls, the things she does for family.
Keith is not happy, he’s maintained contact with Zwiel in order to gauge what’s been going on in House Hazar. Apparently his grandam thought to leave out the fact that Takashi had been captured by Emara, he now knows that the scar across Takashi’s nose was his cousin being a territorial bitch and not the Arena.
Okay sure maybe the man only spoke to him like once and he’d been so embarrassed he let that bit about being from Earth slip he cut off what could have been an actual conversation. And sure it wasn’t like he owned Takashi, no the Imperial Arena (then Merla or maybe Haggar owned him) but dammit Takashi was still his human.
Emara had no right, okay she had every right according to the laws of acquisition, but STILL! Keith’s glad he wears his helmet whenever he’s not locked up in his room, because he’s pouting, he’s well aware he’s pouting. If this had been Thace or Dorma or Ancestors forbid Lotor or any of the generals they’d have known he was pouting.
Seriously, What the ever loving quiznak Emara?
The one highlight is that he’s finally been given the opportunity to get a peek at what Sendak’s been guarding.
It’s a lion of Voltron, it’s the Red Lion of Voltron.
Sendak, and by extension Zarkon, has been sitting on the Red quiznaking Lion of Voltron.
The energy of the lion fills the hangar, it’s soothing, like he’s finally allowed to scratch an itch he’s had but been unable to reach his whole life.
So what if he starts talking to it the same way Kajier talks at him, it’s his down time and no one can prove otherwise.
Except Kajier, because he walked in on Keith when he’d come to take readings.
Kajier moves his lab to the hangar because why not? If Keith’s going to hang out here and talk to the lion, then it would be more efficient to just have everything in one place.
While he may not display emotions readily that doesn’t mean he is without them. The minute Haxus walks in the sub-commander has both Keith and himself glaring at him until he feels awkward and leaves.
If Kajier didn’t know better, which in fairness he doesn’t, he could have sworn the lion had also glared at Haxus.
The thought brings him a small amount of joy.
That is until Sendak bans Keith from the hangar officially.
Keith for his part does not respect the edict, but doesn’t go out of his way to antagonize Sendak or Haxus.
Though if Niex happens to be in the same area both commander and sub-commander find their luck taking turns for the worse.
He’s legitimately pleased that Keith seems to work out his frustrations by testing just how adaptive Niex’s AI is.
Namely by getting into war games and mock dogfights with the sentry, which has been learning to pilot at a pace that’s been fascinating and has Kajier positively salivating with the possibilities.
Lance is having the best day of his life, they managed to save his hero Shiro (heh, Shiro his hero) but now he’s piloting one very advanced piece of alien technology it’s like the universe is finally giving him a shot.
He even manages to attack and then outrun an alien battleship!
“I bet there’s no pilot in the verse that can take me on in Blue here.”
It’s the last thing he says before they enter the wormhole.
Emara is not happy to be called away from the front to deal with some sort of idiotic family conflict.
She’s especially unhappy to learn her father antagonized it.
She’s extremely unhappy to find out that her half-breed cousin is in Sendak’s court undermining her and that this fight was started because her father had reacted to the news instead of letting her handle it.
Instead of even telling her about it.
What breaks the camels back and has her telling her father “go back to Prorok’s fleet, listen to Thace and stop whining like an insipid kitten.” Is when she finds out that the sub-commander she left in charge of going through the system she found the Champion in managed to find, and then lose a quiznaking lion of Voltron.
“I am going to take a nice hot shower, then I am going to burn a system, then I am going to take a nap.” She says to her immediate subordinate.
Zarkon himself had ordered her sub-commander to capture the lion. And he failed.
“I might just burn two systems.”
Not that Keith doesn’t find his cousin’s tantrum amusing he does wish his uncle would stay on task. “Uncle, send this to General Acxa, this data is important and I can’t do it myself because Haxus is monitoring where my outgoing transmissions are going. The fact that Kajier encrypted them is the only reason the brown nosing little snoop isn’t listening in right now.”
He probably should find it suspicious that shortly after he sends that transmission he finds an intruder in Red’s hanger. But there’s an intruder her, an armed intruder, which is something Keith hasn’t had a chance to enjoy in phoebs.
Luckily he’s not supposed to be here so his visits are irregular, the intruder clearly managed to map the patrol patterns.
The intruder has been here a while.
The intruder Keith can sense, despite being masked, is Galra.
Keith smiles beneath his helmet, he draws his sword and charges.
The intruder is fast despite being large, the fight is drawn out, his thermal blade is disrupted by the intruder’s sword.
He has to rely on his knife which is a severe disadvantage. The other has longer limbs and a tail, a tail with a barb attached to it.
He deflects the tail with his shield and locks knife with blade, the intruder freezes for a moment allowing Keith to lunge forward and manages to slice through the armor on his chest but the wound he gives the other before receiving a kick is superficial.
Painful likely, but superficial.
The other runs, Keith gives chase after picking himself up, the other clearly isn’t that intelligent. There’s a good chance he would have been able to win a knife fight.
A dogfight? He’s in Keith’s territory now, he manages to hit the other’s engines and is moving in for the kill when Sendak’s voice rings over the comms, “what do you think you’re doing out there half-breed?”
“There’s an intruder I’m taking him out-”
The distraction was just enough the other’s fighter jumps to hyperdrive.
“And they’re gone.”
“So you failed again then.”
He bites his response back, because Sendak’s just fishing now. He also bites back a number of colorful descriptions of Sendak’s family tree.
“Return to the dreadnought, I have a punishment detail ready to assign.”
There’s a number of new, and especially creative additions to his growing list of “things commander Sendak is.”
As soon as he lands, “Niex, place a perishable in the ventilation system leading to the commander’s room.”
Is Keith petty?
Does he care?
As soon as his job, cleaning out the fabricator and doing maintenance on the sentries, Kajier helps because Keith doesn’t know what hes’ doing.
Also Sendak made another impossible demand regarding figuring out how to lower the Red Lion’s particle barrier and Kajier runs diagnostics and upgrades on the sentries when he’s stressed.
“You called you uncle to brag yet?”
“No, I don’t feel like having Sendak on my ass, I totally will though, and I’ll have him send another transmission to Acxa, because yep, there are rebels. Galra traitors, although that one felt half-Galra.”
“I can sense quintessence signatures, I’ve gotten good at it, though that’s thanks to my tutor.”
“Wait, you really were tutored by the Druids?”
“A Druid, Samael.”
Keith just smiles.
“I want to know how many rumors are true,” reading Kajier is still difficult, his voice tends to lack a great deal of inflection. Small tells exist though, and he’s both nervous, and incredulous.
“I have indeed survived an ice worm bite to the torso, I can show you the scars.”
“Unnecessary, for now, I’ll believe you, I assume it had it’s venom glands removed?”
“No, but my body is aggressive about removing foreign quintessence, so I survived, barely, but I survived.”
“So you were tutored by the Druids, though not built as some rumors suggest.”
Keith laughs at that, because that is still one of his favorites.
“No not built.”
“You did survive a significant ice worm bite during the battle for Ulippa.”
“And, I presume since you mentioned being sensitive enough to quintessence to tell someone is half-Galra, that’s how you’re able to find overlooked rebels and resistance?”
“Got it in one.”
Kajier makes a contemplative noise, “I desire time to think on this, you may go.”
“Sendak assigned me this.”
“I’ll just tell him I’m checking your work, not entirely untrue.”
Keith rolls his eyes but still goes to call his uncle.
Hunk isn’t sure what to make of the mystical space castle or the princess. Sure she’d decided to put Lance in an arm lock, but he decided to greet her (after she just woke up) by flirting. Which okay that’s how he greets every attractive female, but still, she doesn’t know that. And okay ten thousand years is a long nap.
Yeah he’s not going to hold the arm lock against her.
“There are Galra traitors lurking around the Empire, the one I found wore a mask but I have no doubt there are others hiding in plain sight.”
Thace seems alarmed to hear this, his uncle can’t be nearly that naive can he?
“I caught one lurking around Sendak’s ship, tall bugger with a tail blade, probably would have succeeded in killing me if he hadn’t thought escape was more important. Fool actually tried to take me in a fighter.”
“Did you kill him?”
Thace almost sounds apprehensive, he sighs, “uncle, I am a veteran now, spilling blood cannot be avoided you do realize this yes? He wouldn’t even have been the first half-Galra I killed. But no, my illustrious commander managed to interfere before I could strike the final blow. Damaged his engines, could have taken him out if we had followed him. But noo Commander Sendak is too important to take suggestions from a lowly beliak,” Keith spits Sendak’s favorite word.
Thace flinches, and Keith rolls his eyes, “not like the family hasn’t used it plenty of times.”
“I still don’t like hearing it, especially not from you.”
Keith scoffs, “I’m better than that uncle, if that’s how they think of me then it just makes it all the more satisfying when I leave them in my dust.”
Then he sighs, “gonna have to cut this short, Sendak’s already pissy so I’m almost certainly going to have to explain my call home. Talk later.”
Thace isn’t sure how to feel, he contacts Kolivan and is relieved to hear that Antok is fine, cut and bruised from the hit to his engines but fine.
What if Keith had managed to kill him in the fighter Thace had commissioned for him?
What if Ancestors forbid it had been Ulaz?
What if Antok had killed Keith?
Suddenly following Krolia’s grand attempt to change the Empire seems like a very bad, no good, absolutely terrible idea.
Especially since Antok was only there because he’d looked through his nephew’s message to Lotor, before sending it on.
Keith never considered he’d even be thinking this but thank the Ancestors for Zarkon, the Emperor’s order to find and capture Voltron and to take down the Altean princess who’s apparently still alive, managed to distract Sendak from his call to his uncle.
It also means he’ll be able to fly against the paladins of Voltron. He can feel his heart pounding in his ears, if anyone could give him the fight he’s been looking for it would be them.
They can’t even form Voltron, he’ll actually have a shot against them in his fighter.
After the jump to hyperdrive he finds Kajier and asks if he can make sure Niex is completely functional because there’s only one sentry he’ll tolerate flying against the Voltron lions at his six.
Then he goes to Red’s hangar, he hasn’t been able to see her since the incident with the intruder.
She feels angry, like the intruder was an affront to her sovereignty, and she is the true sovereign of this ship. Sendak is kidding himself.
“Shh, he’s gone now, I wouldn’t let someone try and take you, not rebel, not Empire, not even these new or returned paladins.”
He leans his head against her particle barrier and her growl turns into a purr, “of course I mean it, you’re my pride, and that means I am yours.”