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The Rise of Voltron

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Season 1: The Rise of Voltron

A series of mishaps and unfortunate coincidences brings together five extraordinary rebels, all with deep histories and lofty goals. Together, they will become the next generation of legendary defenders and pilots, appropriately named “Paladins”...

 

 

+ + +

 

This is an AU, and holds reference to Voltron Force, Legendary Defender, and DoT-U. It is not a fan fiction to any specific verse. There's also reference to The Maze Runner, Star Trek, and probably a billion others, but not enough to be overly obvious. There is mention of potentially triggering topics, such as homophobia/trabsphobia, suicide, self-harm, etc., throughout the series, but I will put warnings up in each chapter, just to keep all my readers safe. That being said, I'm no James Dashner, but never assume your favourite character is safe from anything -there will be several main character deaths that may be triggering as well. Again, there will be warnings posted. As far as episode releases, I put a lot of time and effort into each episode and lesson, so updates will bet about once every two or three weeks, and Lessons and Episodes are always posted together. However, I am currently up to my ears drowning in university work, so that schedule may not be very reliable. The length of each episode with vary, but will be no less than about 10k words each, with some being quite a bit longer. That being said, have fun ^-^

Chapter Text

    The carrier's engines and thrusters thundered around them as it hovered only a meter above the rocky surface, kicking up dust that would have blinded the armored soldiers that leapt from the hull had they not been wearing special masks. They were designed to hide one's identity, display stats and coms, and protect the face of the wearer, much like the pitch black and deep red armor that encased their bodies. The seams and joints were silent, and the soles of the boots scarcely made any sound when they came in contact with the surfaces beneath them. Softly glowing insignias on the chest-plates displayed rank, the series of lines telling each other who they were addressing at a single quick glance. A patch on the left arm alerted any outsider who might be lucky enough (or unfortunate enough) to see them who they were dealing with, should they not instantly recognize the armor as that of an elite Promethean. 

    Footsteps came almost silently on the rocks and dust of Germany's once-breathtaking Rhineland, the rhythm making it almost impossible to tell how many there were. Agile and skilled in the espionage and reconnaissance they were beginning, the armed agents made their way effortlessly across the barren wasteland of war-torn buildings and the rubble of completely leveled towns and cities. Occasionally, a rock would tumble and an agent would trip, but would recover in the blink of an eye. Snipers in the rear and along the sides provided extra eyes for the other scouts who were inadequately armed, and at the lead were the commanders of the squadron. 

    HoloMap hovering over her Com Cuff was Laika Ryner, a lieutenant of significant standing. Beside her was Commander Vex Tomlin, a powerful blaster gripped in her hands so tightly that the leather of her old-fashioned gloves crinkled and squeaked a little bit. The Olkari lieutenant signaled for the squadron to take a left, and they followed her command and a ruined city came into view.   

    "Sonda, Gryfin, on my left," Vex hissed, waving the snipers to cover her. They fell into position as they peaked into building after building, in some places, the smoke was still billowing up to the sky and flames still licked at the ground and buildings. 

    "Expats?" Sonda's whisper came over the coms, her eyes not leaving the scope on the barrel of her rifle. 

    Laika ran her fingers over several scuff marks on the wall of a former skyscraper. "Yes... an arson team." 

    Vex turned to her. "Galra Elite?" Behind the shield of her mask, she lifted a dark brow in question. The answer was obvious, but she wanted confirmation. 

        The Galra were a formidable force, plaguing Earth and her colonies for close to three-hundred years like a reoccurring cancer that could not be cured. 

    According to their schoolbooks, the Galra had been the dominate race in the entire universe for well over ten-thousand years, tormenting and conquering vast swaths of the universe at a time. It seemed that Earth was their most recent victim, for they refused to fully surrender like so many others had. Often they would joke that they should just give up and go elsewhere, rather than wasting resources trying to eradicate a race that intended to go down swinging -if they went at all. 

    (But being the racist bastards they are, they won't let the Aliens who remain that are not Galra assist in the fight, Laika frequently reminded herself, usually upon looking in the mirror in her washroom on Kerberos.) Her status as a pure-blooded Olkari made her an outcast, but she greatly preferred to remain on the Kerberos colony. It was at least far more habitable than Earth..... 

    "Most likely." The reply was cold and dripping with poison. Laika could sense the shivers that crept down her teammates' spines and made their blood run cold. 

    Vex let out a long, quiet breath, earning a concerned glance from Laika. We're not equipped for an ambush.... It's a trap.

    The commander bit her lips. "Mauer, Rikade, cover Ryner and her team. Sonda, Gryfin, with me." She tore away from the close formation, veering off to the right and deeper into the building as her Com Cuff burst to life, displaying a map dotted with blinking beacons. Survivors.....The cuffs were tuned and calibrated to scan for, trace, and track biorhythms, and those of Vex's squadron and of every Promethean were already coded into the system. They flashed red, while the unidentified biorhythms of what Vex knew would be survivors flashed in green. She followed the path her screen mapped out, her snipers and friends on either side of her, scopes repeatedly sweeping for any remaining drones of any sort that would most definitely be hostile. 

    "Down here, c'mon.." Vex stepped out of the way as Gryfin took the point down the old, unstable stairs, the boards creaking under his footfalls. 

    "Area clear of hostiles, Commander." Gryfin's voice crackled over her coms, hushed and mindfully articulated to account for the omnipresent static. Vex nodded and Sonda followed her down the stairs, keeping a close eye on the stairs. 

    "Sonda, hold position. Gryfin, help me get them up to the rendezvous point." Vex looked at the huddled group of survivors, a small family of five, with two younger children and an infant. The children watched Vex and Gryfin with terrified eyes. "We're not here to hurt you, I promise." Gryfin lowered his rifle and slung it back over his shoulders. "My name is Commander Tomlin. We're from Prometheus." 

    "Are you here to help us?" They were mixed, all of them. The parents appeared to be at least half Vandehei -the four arms and flaming hair being a glaringly obvious clue- but the oldest of the three children and the infant looked to be a full-blooded human. It was the mother who spoke. 

    Vex nodded. "Yes, we are. I promise, we'll get you to safety." She assured them, inching a little closer, hands now up a little in surrender. "Trust us, please." 

     The parents exchanged a glance as gunfire erupted above them. 

    Laika.

    "Commander! We need to leave now." Sonda hissed, firing up the stairs. 

    Vex looked at them desperately. "Come on, we need to go. We'll take you to the Haven. I promise, everything is going to be okay." The mother nodded and climbed to her feet, her family following suit as Gryfin raced to help Sonda clear their path. "Stay right behind me. Rinkade, hail the Predator, we need emergency evac for five civilians, asap! Tell them to scramble the IGF fighters over our location!" She ordered over her com, receiving an affirmative from her subordinate. A shot buzzed past Sonda's head, grazing her helmet but not harming her. The family listened, huddling together and stayed ducked between Gryfin and Vex. Sonda stayed to the right as the ascended the stairs, the wall to the left protecting them for the time being. The rest of Laika's team were keeping up a steady barrage of return fire, but it was not doing enough damage. Vex could hear the little children crying and screaming in terror and her heart ripped in half. If she had a free hand, she would have carried one of them. 

    The Predator's thrusters thundered overhead as it landed on the roof, hopefully bringing a few more Prometheans with it. The deafening rumble was mixed with the screech of the fighter's wings piercing the sky, wreaking havoc on the lines of drones that had them under siege. "Laika! Get your team to the roof!" Vex hollered, waving for them to go. "We'll cover you!" The group of scientists and researchers made a mad dash for the rusting access ladder, Rikade taking up the rear as usual. 

    "Commander! There's a fleet inbound! We have to hurry!" The sniper yelled through the comms once he made it to the roof. Without hesitation and dodging shot after shot, Vex and her snipers lead the refugees to the roof, not stopping when the mother stumbled a little, yelping as she regained her footing. 

    "Vex! Get your ass up here, now!" Laika screamed, gripping the bar across the opening of the Predator's hold, Rikade just in front of her, kneeled down and sniping the drones that attempted to approach the craft. So far, he was relatively successful. 

    The mother continued to stumble and Vex abandoned her own firearm to take the infant from her. If it came down to it, Vex would be able to shield the child with her own body, even if it meant loosing her own life. That was the sacrifice they all had to be prepared to make, and over the decades, so many had in favour of the greater good. 

    The wind from the thrusters kicked up dust and whipped the refugees' hair in every direction, the infant screaming and wailing as Vex passed her off to Laika. Mauer and Vex helped the children climb aboard, then the parents, the latter giving them a boost as the ship began to rise off the ground. By the time Vex and Gryfin were aboard, only Sonda remained and the craft was nearly two meters off the ground. 

    She had nearly pulled herself up fully when a searing, burning blast knocked her left arm from its place on the edge of the entrance, pulling an agonized scream from her throat. 

    "Beth!" Gryfin yelled, falling to his stomach and reaching for her. "Come on! Give me your hand!!" She managed to swing her badly damaged arm up enough for Gryfin to grab the sleeve, trying not to hurt her further as he pulled her up and into the craft before the hull doors finally sealed. Vex was already in the gunman's pod, trying to fight off the last of the fighters that followed them. 

 

 

 

    The Predator and IGF fighters were out of the atmosphere before anyone realized the extent of the injures received aside from Sonda's arm -which would need to be amputated, it seemed. The bones were completely shattered and entire chunks of flesh and muscle were already melted away from the blast. Gryfin refused to leave her side, holding her carefully, but securely, while Laika and Vex tended to the refugee family. As they wrapped blankets around their shoulders, the mother winced in pain and pulled her hand from her side, revealing the trademark blue blood of a Vandehei.

    "Em..." The father looked between her hand and her eyes, tears welling in his own as he pulled her a little closer, kissing her head and cheeks softly. The mother -Em- exhaled shakily, the adrenaline finally leaving her system and replacing with the pain of destroyed tissue. The children seemed to catch on, and the toddlers wobbled over and away from Rikade and Mauer. Their little teary voices babbled for their mother in Valehen, the words almost indistinguishable to Vex, who knew very little of the language. 

    "Laika, get a med kit, we need to try and save her if we can..." Vex turned to her lieutenant, hand around her upper arm as she pulled her close enough so that only she could hear. The Olkari nodded and retrieved the kit, meeting Vex back at Em's side. 

 

 

    An hour and halfway to the Haven later, Rikade had done what he could to numb Em's pain and patch up the wound with the limited availability of medical supplies on the Predator. If they could get Em to the Haven alive, their doctors had a far better shot at saving her.     

    Tucked in a gravity pocket, the Haven could only be found by those who knew how to find it. Currently, Vex was the only member of her squadron who knew the way. She had taken over for the pilot as they neared the entry point -even the timing of the entry had to be perfect or else the ship would be obliterated in the immense pull of gravity that hid the planet. A feat of engineering in every way, the Haven had formerly been an abandoned terraforming planet which had been rejuvenated roughly a hundred years prior. At any given time, it housed several hundred million interplanetary refugees, most from Earth and her exoplanets. If it had another name, Vex did not know it. 

    "Everyone in the back, hold on to something, we have thirty seconds to entry." Vex then flicked off the PA system and let out a long draw of air. She focused on the controls under her hands, feeling the way they hummed at her touch. Entering the quantum draw was not easy and she counted down in her head. 

    "...nine...eight....seven....."

    With a sharp lurch, Vex slammed the controls forward, and with them the entire craft. 

    "This is Commander Tomlin of Promethium, requesting permission to access Haven Outpost. Over." She hailed the command center once they were past the draw, gradually decreasing the speed of the craft. Vex could almost hear Laika's disapproving glare. 

    She should be more careful using a hyperjump in a quantum draw... Laika would scold her.

    Vex knows. 

    "Permission granted. Welcome back, Commander." The voice on the other end crackled, but she knew it well.  

    Kai Saeyong, a young communications officer, was a native of Kerberos and had once been a Promethean, but washed out a year into his training. He had never been one for discipline...... At least he seemed to be doing well here. 

    "Hey Kai, I'm gonna need an emergency medical team to the port. Two critical casualties..." Vex requested, an err of sorrow in her tone. She wanted Em to survive......  

    One too many times on rescue missions, Vex had lost at least one refugee. Once, she lost an entire family, two of them infants. She couldn't loose any more. 

    "You got it, Commander. Anything else while you're on?" Vex found herself smiling a little at his tone -carefree and reliable. Discipline issues aside, Kai always did what he said he would do, for better or worse. 

    "Nope, just a nice warm welcome." Vex smiled as she flipped off her coms and eased the Predator down onto the pad, where the medics were already waiting. The thrusters kicked up every speck of dust and dirt they could find, and the ship itself rattled from the damage it took. Vex was amazed it had lasted that long... 

 

    +++ 

 

    Stomping his foot into his boot, Cassidy Issacs tugged on the laces and tied them up tightly, double-knotting the laces out of habit. He let out a puff of air and tipped his head back and up to the ceiling, eyes closed. The news said there had been another threat from the Renegades to give up the city and let more Outsiders in. The government would likely refuse again, but if the Renegades attacked -like they usually would- it would mean relocation to another city. If they survived the trip, they would be displaced again. A tally on the back of an old photograph told him that it would be the tenth time in his life already that he and his family had been forced to move under fire to a city that may not even accept them. Why could the government never try to compromise with them? They just wanted security and protection like everyone else from the Alien threat. Who didn't?

    Someone pounded on his door, making him jump a little. Cassidy had been too lost in his own world to pay attention to reality. "Casey! We gotta move!" His sister, Verra, hollered, an edge of panic in her tone. Clearly the government had decided to refuse the Renegades ultimatum -again.

    "I am! I need like, a second!" He hurried to tie his other boot and slung his backpack -already full of rations, clothes, and other supplies. Strapped to his leg was an old fashioned pistol, and in his side bag was a blaster that he had scrounged off the corpse of a Promethean over a year ago. He had only used it a few times, but its renewable plasma energy was far superior than the limited bullets of the old guns. He checked to make sure the old gun was fully loaded, clapping the magazine back into the handle and locking it back into the holster -he left the safety off. 

    "Casey!!" Verra hollered again, jerking the door open. "Now! Renegades already broke through the Maria defenses!" She grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the room, she herself already dressed for the trek ahead and backpack stuffed to the brim with supplies. Costa City was a fifty-kilometer journey from Havanah, and between the two was an unknown number of Renegade outposts and pockets of Aliens. 

    In those days, the only war was for survival, and with less than a thousand armored Cities left on Earth -few of which were capable of sending people to whatever colonies remained- no species would survive for more than another century. Earth would become desolate, just like Luna. Even Martia was on the brink of collapse, caught up in a lethal epidemic with no means of escape and no medics or doctors left to fly in. Someone on the news had predicted that Martia's population would be wiped out within another year or two. Then Earth would be alone. The factions were in a constant state of war for survival, and without any kind of hope for a future, humanity's clock was ticking at a nauseating rate. 

    Casey didn't know how people ever decided to have children during times like this. Even the supplies within the Cities would only last so long, what with the Renegades taking them over like a child collects shells on a beach. They would grow up to nothing but bloodshed and famine and continue the war their parents' parents fought in, and the loop would continue. Earth would not evolve. 

    Earth would succumb to it's own infection. 

     Weakness...

Chapter Text

genesis

 

 

    Prometheus. 

     Every child who ever had a literature, theology, or other such class knows the Greek God full of tricks and gimmicks who brought fire to man against Zeus's wishes -twice. The god who was given the beautiful Pandora as punishment, and then -in a way- caused all sorrow and malice to be released upon the mortals of Earth.  

    Skip ahead a few millennia, this is taught in schools for centuries on end and well....

     You'll see. 

    Earth has been a desolate and unforgiving world for around two hundred years now, and to anyone other than gods and other immortal beings or ones with "unnaturally" long lifespans, two hundred years is a long time. And to anyone who has ever studied history of any kind knows that a lot of advancements can happen in two decades. 

    So why have we not evolved since the War?

    That is quite the good question. 

    The answer is simple, or so we have been told. 

    The Aliens. 

    They brought upon us war and conflict, struggle and turmoil. Governments toppled in minutes, countries fell in hours, and entire races were wiped clean from the face of reality in the blink of an eye. Those that remained fought to rebuild what they could, but the Aliens remained on Earth, and while most tried to do their part to help the humans, others tried to rise from the chaos and conquer us all over again. And if there's one thing history is good at teaching, it's that humans don't like it when foreigners invade and try to take over their land and lives. 

    Generally that sort of thing ends in war, does it not? So why should this be any different? 

    On Kerberos, we were taught that our colony was one of the few to escape the bloodshed on Earth and Luna (the latter now a barren wasteland just like it was prior to human discovery, save the broken skeletons of structures and colonists that decorate the landscape), and that is a sad lie. The troubles between Aliens and Humans followed the colonists wherever they went, especially for mixed-species families. Those that remain are hidden and smuggled out of the atmosphere by Renegades on Earth. 

    The last time anyone actually bothered to check, Earth's human population was somewhere a little less than one billion. Aliens numbered in the hundred-thousands.

    But what did Prometheus have to do with any of this? 

    This is a bit more complex, and this is perhaps the worst way to explain it, but pay attention and you may figure it out eventually. 

    Like the mafia alliances in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Renegades and Prometheans are vital forces in the survival of Alien species on Earth and her colonies, as well as those who do not believe in the archaic systems we live in. Renegades remain rooted to Earth, while Prometheans focus on the off-world colonies, like Kerberos and Mars -commonly known as Exoplanet Martia. We are the ones who bring the fire to Earth, guns blazing and without restraint. We are the ones who trick the other gods who claim to rule earth and escape with the ripest bounties. 

    The shattered remains of the once mighty Galaxy Garrison is what we owe our existence too, for they were the ones to resist and supply our assets before they were finally obliterated in the late 23rd century. 

    Why did they create us?

     Their allies had been vanquished, vilified, and hunted to extinction. 

     Every child knows the names. 

     Gunderson, Shirogane, Kogane, McClain, Garret..... So many others who had once been heroes and savior to countless and immeasurable beings turned into monsters and tyrants by time and retelling. Monuments vandalized and destroyed, names twisted into insults, faces painted over in red, and stories told with a bitterness of tone that would make even Cain himself shrink away in fear. 

     But Voltron never abandoned us, we abandoned Voltron. 

     When the Paladins could no longer defend us, when age, sickness, and time took them, no one bothered to find replacements. No one bothered to try and search for new paladins to take their places. Sure, some tried to offer their services and their lives, but they were denied the chance "for the sake of honour and dignity" and the once mighty lions were lost to the world, unable to be found by any, even the most desperate soul. The bodies of the five original paladins were buried with honour, sealed in a tomb as fine as that of a medieval king or Egyptian Pharaoh. And for perhaps a decade, they were worshiped, their tombs a sacred place for those seeking wisdom and guidance. 

    But peace never lasts, does it? Nothing ever does. When no new paladins magically appeared to save the planet from the aliens that tried to take over the severely weakened planet, people began to question the remaining Alteans. Only two remained at that time, and one had been a paladin. Why had she not taken up the fight with her lion? Rallied the next generation of paladins? 

    Like all remains of Voltron, she was killed, and her family with her. And unlike the paladins, she was not buried with honours and no one knows where her body was buried.

Without any true power of good, the corrupt took over the shattered remains of governments and became the powers of the planet, but were unable to defend their people. 

    And thus the wars began, and continued to ravage the planet and her colonies for over a hundred years. Voltron became a villain, and those born into the new world have taken no steps to end the fight. 

    For if all someone knows is fire, are they destined to watch the world burn?

Chapter Text

———————————————

Now..... Shall we begin..?

 

    The rays of white light from the heavy, ancient Garrison vehicles bleed through the barred window, washing over the sleeping, intertwined individuals. As if on cue, a shrill alarm rang, cutting through the low rumble of traffic outside. A hand shot out from under the old and faded quilts, groping the bedside table for the cause of the noise as the other occupant of the bed groaned in annoyance and slowly pushed herself up from the sea of blankets. The owner of the groping hand finally found the offending clock and gave it a good smack, successfully ending the buzzing. 

    Vex had to practically swim out from the blankets as well, blinking the sleep from her eyes. Beside her, Laika dropped her head back onto the pillows, eyes falling shut again.

    "Five more minutes, please....." She whined, pulling Vex back to join her. The ebony-skinned girl happily curled around the other, burying her face in the crook of her neck. 

    Vex grumbled incoherently. "Ten sounds butter, but we have a meeting this morning..."

    Laika's yellow eyes rolled dramatically. "But whyyyy..." She locked her arms around Vex's waist and her thin mouth-line pressed to her shoulder. 

    "Because we have to... We're in charge of a lot of people and they changed the rules a little..." Vex tried to pry away from her girlfriend with little avail. "Laika, c'mon, we have to.... And besides, after the skirmish on Earth, the Admirals want a full report and debriefing by noon.” 

    "Then you go..." Laika huffed and let her go, a pillow quickly taking Vex's place in her arms. 

    Vex sighed in annoyance. "Lieutenant Ryner.....That was an order..." She climbed out of bed, wincing when her bare feet hit the cold tile floor. Vex padded over to the closet, her feet slowly growing accustomed to the unforgiving tile beneath them, and reached for the folded, formal uniforms on the shelf above the rest of their clothes. She sighed. Every Monday and Friday, like clockwork, Vex and Laika had to deliver their reports to the admirals. Mondays outlined any weekend activity, Fridays outlined everything else.

    But for whatever reason, Tuesdays always seemed to be hold the place in Vex's heart that was reserved for her least favourite day of the week. It had taken quite while for Vex to figure out why the day was so irksome. Mondays had a purpose; she went back on duty for the week and delivered her weekend reports. Sometimes, the weekends went poorly, but as soon as the last word of her report left her mouth and she walked out of the room, she was done. But Tuesdays were when the weeks truly started for her, and the sense of relief and finalization left her entirely. 

    Not to mention that this past skirmish had been on a Tuesday. 

     It generally just felt like everything she and her teams had worked for over the weekend had been for naught, and gave her a bad start.  

    "You'd really think that they would have debriefed us the second we got back.." Laika trudged over to Vex and took her uniform from her, pecking the commander's forehead as she did so. Their height difference was mildly amusing, and not because Laika was from a tall species. In fact, Olkari were -on average- about the size of a grown human. Vex, much to her dismay, was barely five and a half feet tall, and looked like a child when she let her hair down in its natural curls, or worse, when she pulled it back in poofy little buns at the base of her neck. Laika, on the other hand, just thought it was adorable and vaguely reminiscent of the antennae at the base of her own neck.  

    "Yeah I know, but when have any of them made any sense at all?" Vex sighed, scowling at her uniform. "For example, the Jyungvix is-"

    Laika clapped her hand over her girlfriend's mouth, eyes narrowed. "We don't talk about that." The commander chuckled nervously, pushing Laika's hand away.  

    They had all but made a blood pact to not talk about certain awry missions, and this one was no exception. Not many outside of their squadron and the Promethean leaders knew the full extent of the assignment details, and anyone who thought they knew were terribly misinformed. However, that was the case with many of their missions. Granted, a good portion of Kerberos -the Outpost Jade colony, specifically- belonged to the Promethean project, not many outside of the Terra crews knew the full extent of the situation. Mecca and Outpost Jade were Promethean-governed, under martial law, but they were peaceful and lived a good life, far from the apocalyptic horrors of Earth and Luna, and Martia had gone dark a decade prior, right around the time Luna was decimated. Vex assumed that Prometheus would eventually send scouts to the red planet, but she doubted it would be her crew. They specialized in Terra operations, and knew almost every inch of Europe and North America's terrain at that point. 

    The Rhineland Extraction still burned in her memory, fresh and clear as if it had been only hours prior, not an entire week. Vex hoped that the refugee mother and Beth were alright...

    "Case and point." 

    Vex shimmied out of her sweatpants and tank top, not bothering to be modest as she changed into the stuffy, clean cut and pressed dress uniform. The deep grey and black trim were reminiscent of a more peaceful time, preserved and copied over the decades. Vex hated it, but it was better than the eye-sores that were the lower-ranking uniforms. The orange had done nothing to complement her completion, but then again, neither did grey. Laika, on the other hand, had frequently expressed distaste for almost every outfit except the traditional wear of her people. Sadly, she had no choice but to conform to the expectations of her job. They had at least been able to make modifications to her helmets to accommodate the shape of her head and her antenna. 

    "So, breakfast then debriefing?" Vex raised a brow at the half-dressed Olkari, chuckling slightly as she froze, perched like a flamingo as she was halfway through putting her pants on. Laika blinked, snapping out of her concentration. She finished tugging on her pants before answering. 

     "Sounds like a plan to me." She buttoned them and yanked up the zipper. "Gives me time to finalize my report before we turn them in."

     Vex's questioning gaze turned deadpan. "Are you seriously telling me that you haven't finished your report yet? Laika, it's been-"

    "-a week, I know." She pranced over and pecked her girlfriend's cheek. "But making sure you took proper care of yourself was far more important. Especially after you got food poisoning the day we got back." Laika pointed out, not really wanting to deal with Vex's arguments.

     The commander fell silent, slowly submitting to Laika's judgmental smile. Vex sighed. "Alright, alright. But next time, don't wait til the last minute to finish your work, okay?" She frowned a little. "Did you at least finish cataloging the data you collected from the bomb sites?"

     Laika nodded, her mouth-line twisting downward into a disturbed frown. "It's strange. The residual was almost like good ol' fashioned dynamite from like, the Dark Ages or something. But the Fraunhofer lines..."

 

 

+ + +

 

 

     "...Whoever designed the bombs managed to cloak even the trace elements left behind." Laika bit the inside of her cheek before continuing. 

     "What are you talking about?" Admiral Sergio laced his fingers together and rested his elbows on the table, chin propped up on his hands. "Elaborate." 

     Laika took a deep breath. "When a bomb is detonated, no matter what the distance between the point of origin and the first point of impact, residual chemicals can be detected at full concentration. However, in this blast, the analysis of the residual resulted as dynamite, an Earth explosive used for blasting through rock and the base of most early bombs dating back to before the 18th century, as well as hydrogen, another earth-standard explosive."

     "Are you trying to say this was not a Galra attack?" General Klinger narrowed her steel blue eyes, the lines in her forehead deepening. "Was this a Renegade assault?"

    "On the Rhineland? No." Vex cut in. "The remaining offenders were Galra, that I can confirm. And to our knowledge, there are no Renegade posts anywhere in Germany or France. The operate mostly in Russia, India, and China, where the populations were highest outside of North America."

     "Yeah, no this wasn't the Renegades, trust us, general." Laika shook her head. "As I was about to say, the Fraunhofer lines produced by the trace scan did not match the initial elemental scans or analysis. I cross-referenced the line with all seven-hundred-thousand-eight-hundred-and-two known elements, and it didn't align with any known substance." She pointed her laser at the blue lines scrolling rapidly behind a single red line. "My team and I can only conclude that this line is an entirely unknown element, one with chameleon-like qualities."

    "To be fair-" Vex added, "There is an unknown quantity of elements in the universe, it is very possible that the Galra have gotten their hands on another that we have yet to record in the UDB."

     Admiral Winchester leaned back in his chair, arms crossed with a scowl on his face. "If what you ladies are saying is true, then we may have a much larger problem on our hands than we are equipped to handle."  

    Vex and Laika exchanged an uneasy glance. 

    "You said only one bomb had been detonated, and the blast that wounded Lieutenant Sonda melted her flesh?" He continued, earning a nod from Laika.  

    "Yes sir, it did, and yes, there was only one blast that we could detect." Laika bit her lip, already knowing right where the conversation was going. "My arson analysts are still reconstructing the town based on the scans from the Predator sonar. We'll know the full story within a week." 

    "Regardless..." Admiral Sergio sighed deeply. "We will send word to the Renegades and send your team to earth, Commander. You will rendezvous with Captain Holt at Martial Romeley’s base and exchange information. Learn what you can from them and inform them of our findings."  

    Vex nodded curtly. "This is immediate, I assume?" She asked, already forming a plan in her head.

    "Naturally," Sergio drummed his fingers on the table for a brief moment. "Private Johansson will replace Lieutenant Sonda as your second sniper, respectively." 

    Vex's eyes went wide. "All due respect, Admiral, but I have seen Private Johansson in training and even in the field. I would rather choose my own te-"

    "That was not a suggestion, Commander." Sergio said sharply. "That was an order. You two are dismissed. Report to the launch bay at 0900 standard tomorrow for departure."

    "But sir!" Vex argued, despite Laika tugging at her sleeve, silently begging her not to pick a fight. "Beth is the best sniper I have, I don't want to risk this mission without her."

    Admiral Winchester slammed his fist on the desk. "Commander! That is enough. You will take Gryfin and Johansson as your snipers, as well as your usual crew. That is final.” He sat back down, voice lowered to the usual bored rumble. "You and Lieutenant Ryner are dismissed."

    Vex sighed in defeat. "Yes sir...." She set her jaw firmly, walking out into the hall with Laika. Once the door was shut, Vex's hands curled into fists and she growled in frustration. Surely they could wait a few more days until Beth was healed and able to accompany them?

 

    Slim, scaled hands slipped over Vex's, encompassing them in warmth and calming her nerves a little. Vex hated how the Olkari chemist was able to pull her out of the worst moods possible with just the slightest touch. Maybe she liked being angry... (They balanced each other. Vex's temper and underlying violent streak were tucked under a collected and unnervingly calm exterior, and buried deep were the emotions that few people ever saw.) Laika -her opposite- was gentle and curious, always trying to pick and poke and figure out how everything worked, Vex included. 

    "Hey..." Her tone was delicate, just like a tiny scales that made up her skin... "This isn't an extraction mission. It's an information exchange in protected territory." Laika rubbed her thumbs gently over Vex's knuckles. "We need the intel and Beth needs to heal fully. Remember what you always used to tell your trainees? That one quote from the old Voltron Coalition promotions?" 

    "I know...." Vex took a deep breath, closing her eyes and focusing on Laika's presence. "Patience-"

    "-Begets focus..." Laika finished the statement. "That's what makes you a good leader. You just need to learn to cool off and let change happen." 

     The commander blinked once, then twice, leaning back against Laika. She said nothing, trying to ignore the passerby's that were giving them odd looks. It wasn't like their relationship was hidden. It was public knowledge, and therefore did not matter. Those days, many took whatever comfort and peace they could find, and any sort of discrimination based solely on how one chose to handle their love life was virtually nonexistent. Seeing a Commander and her partner being affectionate in public should not draw attention....

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    Air rushed into his lungs as he bolted upright, head spinning and pounding. His ears rang, the air around him thundering rhythmically, like he was trapped in the center of an old 21st century military transport. 

    "Aye, Sleeping Beauty's finally awake!" Someone shouted over the noise of the surroundings. The voice was neither male nor female, and the accent was not one he had ever heard. "Got quite a bump on the head a while back, weren't sure ya were gonna wake up!" A chuckle. "What's ya name, mate?"

     Was the person talking to him? Might as well answer either way.... "Casey....."

    "Casey what?" Casey looked over in the direction he assumed the voice came from, only to be met with the sight of a fully uniformed, armored figure. He scooted back a little. "I mean, do ya have a last name?" 

    "Isaacs...?" 

    The uniformed person sighed and set aside the tablet they were holding before reaching up and pulling of their helmet. A mess of bright red curly hair tumbled from its restraints down past the person's ears, almost reaching -his?- jaw. Freckles were splashed across his nose and cheeks, and purple eyes seemed to glow in the dim lighting. "Casey Isaacs? Aye, good name. I'll be the first to say it's not what I expected, but a good name nonetheless." 

    Casey blinked slowly, trying to figure out where he was and who the uniformed person was. Without the helmet, the voice sounded a little deeper, but still not entirely masculine.

    "Are....are you a guy or a girl?"

    "A what?" The ginger asked, setting the helmet aside. "Oh, a laddie or a broad? Yes."  

    Casey's face scrunched up in confusion. "What's that supposed to mean?" 

    "Means I'm both and neither. Either or. Depends on the day, really."  

    "Okay...." Casey said hesitantly, still confused by the strangers' vague explanation. "Do you have a name?"

    The ginger nodded, taking a swig from the canteen hooked to their belt. "Aye. Sergeant Michaelson, sniper." They smiled a little, offering the canteen to Casey.  

    Casey held his hand up. "I'm good, thanks." His head still pounded, and every fiber of his being wanted to curl up and go back to sleep. "Where are we?"

    Sergeant Michaelson sighed, crossing their legs and leaning back, bracing their weight on their arms. "We're in the hold of an Eclipse class military chopper, we are. On our way back to Winona base."  

    (Winona Base.... Where had he heard that...?)

    Casey's eyes widened briefly. "You're a Renegade." He accused, a certain degree of hatred in his voice. "You kidnapped me. Who else do you have here?" He demanded, eyes narrowing threateningly.

     "Mate, I dunno what you're on about, but I didn't do any such thing." The sniper huffed. "If anything, I rescued ya."

    "You-! What?" Casey shook his head. "Just-..." He ran his hands through his dirty white hair, frustrated. "What the hell is going on here?" The sniper opened their mouth to speak, but Casey clapped his hand over their mouth. "And.....start from the beginning." He said in a low, irritated voice. 

    Michaelson nodded, pushing Casey's hand away. "Yeah, okay, just relax. Okay? I swear, I'm not here to hurt ya. If I wanted ya dead, ya would be already, so shut'cha yap for ten bleeding seconds, yeah?" They sighed. "Right, so I already told ya, I'm Sergeant Aaron Michaelson. I'm a Renegade sniper from Winona base. We laid a siege on Havanah City last week. Tried to flush out the Galra that have ya pinned. Bunch of ya city folk decided to try and fight your way out... Headed to Costa City, yeah?" 

     Casey nodded hesitantly. 

    "Yeah yeah, well ya got us all wrong, I swear. See, us Renegades aren't trynna hurt ya or take over or nothing. I've been with them most'a my life and what I taken from it is that we're trynna get your governments to join us and fight back and what not." Aaron sighed, shrugging. "And trust me, your family's safe. Least as far as I know. We found ya in the cleanup of the stampede that escaped, knocked on the noggin and sleeping like the bloody dead. My Lieutenant wanted me to bring ya back so nothing else got to ya."

     "So..." Casey tried to wrap his brain around everything. "How the hell do I know this isn't some elaborately orchestrated kidnapping and you're all just holding me for ransom?" 

    "Ya don't." 

    The boy sighed, flopping back onto the cot, trying to drone out the sound of the rotors cutting through the air. He closed his eyes, hyper aware of Aaron's analytical, confused gaze that was locked on him. 

    "Human's are interesting things, ya know?" Aaron eventually concluded. 

    Casey opened his eyes, sitting up a little. "Excuse me, what?" 

    "Humans, ya lot are weird." They repeated.

    "Oh and you're not?" Casey narrowed his eyes. "Are there Aliens that can blend in with humans now? Are we gonna have to implement some sort of screener again? Ship you all off to some kind of-"

    Aaron sighed, several sets of symmetrical pale green markings appearing on their face as they raised a challenging brow. Casey gulped, trying to scoot himself and the cot away from Aaron, failing miserably. Aaron rolled their violet eyes, a disappointed grunt rumbling in their throat. "Jeeze, ya act like I sprouted horns and a third arm, for Ancients' sake... Will ya put the cot back and sit your ass on it? I'm not gonna eat ya, if that's what's going on in that washed brain of yours." They sounded mildly offended, and looked so, too. They laid back on the ground, arms crossed over their chest. "Humans are friggin' nuts...." Aaron grumbled quietly.  

    Casey crained his neck a little, trying to see the sniper's face. "So... what are you then?" 

    "Hm?" 

    "I mean, you're an alien. What kind are you?" 

    Aaron sat up, clearly offended. "Oi, ya got some twisted information don't'cha?" They remarked dryly, voice cracking. "Ya mean what species? Ya don't look at a group of people and go 'Ey, Makie, what kind'a humans are those?' do ya?" 

    Casey shook his head. "No..." Was h- they insulted...? Obviously...

    "Yeah well to answer your question -insulting as it is- I'm a halfie." Aaron huffed, laying back down.

    "Huh?"  

    Their uniform ruffled as they shifted a little. "Mate, you're thick as a bundle a' brick sticks, ain't'cha? Half one, half another. Halfie." Aaron explained, clearly annoyed. There was a long period of painful silence before they spoke again. Casey sighed softly, curling back up on the cot uneasily. He was a prisoner... That was the only thought in his head as he closed his eyes and tried to will himself to sleep.

    "Half human, half Altean.... Mum was human, Pop was Altean. Both died in the Luna bombings...." Aaron said quietly. The tone made Casey realize how tender of a nerve he had struck, and his lips formed a small, 'oh'.   

    Casey laced his fingers together in his lap, hyperaware of the rhythmic thumping of the aircraft's propellers cutting through the air. "I'm sorry... I didn't mean to-"

    "-People die in war..." Aaron sighed, eyes turned to their boots as they picked at the laces. "It don't mat'er anymore..."  

    The white-haired boy watched them move, brows furrowed in concern and guilt as he tried to close his eyes and find sleep again. Aaron eventually stood up and straightened their uniform. 

    "Get some rest, City Boy..." 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    The whirring and digitized beats were muffled through the walls and thousands of voices in Mecca's lower district, the streets packed with the younger generation that inhabited the small moon. Shoulder to shoulder in some places -especially near food stands- it became difficult to walk more than single file, lest one pulled their friends or significant other through the throngs by the arm. A variety of languages could be picked out -Vandehei, Drexian, the occasional German and maybe Japanese...  

    Lights from the patrol drones reflected off the dome a thousand feet above the streets, but that did nothing to eliminate the otherwise perpetual night that Mecca faced. The natural cycle of the moon only gave way to the old fashioned "night life" that thrived on Kerberos, especially amongst off-duty Promethean agents. A myriad of colours from storefronts, clubs, and stalls lit up the streets and the people filling them. The diversity of Mecca was second only to that of the Haven. 

    It was minutes from Outpost Jade, where Prometheus found its home. Unlike the cityscape of Mecca, Jade was strictly militant, the heart of all expat/refugee extractions and inter-colonial communications. For Vex Tomlin, it was the only home she'd ever known. Her parents were agents, and she was raised into the life. Her parents knew the risks of having a child on Kerberos, especially as an agent, and yet they managed to give their daughter a warm, loving home under the cold, unforgiving dome.

    (The domes provided a habitable space for colonists to live, and although it tailored to human respiratory needs, there were centers that provided masks for the citizens who breathed a different mix of chemicals. Occasionally, one could see a small group of such people in a school or just out in public changing battery cartridges or filters.) 

    Promethean agents who were tasked to Earth missions, however, were supposed to be able to breathe the natural atmospheric mix. If they were captured or stranded, their masks would inevitably run out of charge or the filter would fail, and the agent would die a painful death. That was what Vex's parents had told her when they went on their last mission. She had asked why some of their squadron had not been included in the roster...... 

     To-date, they had been missing for close to ten years. 

    Her father had disappeared first. A last-ditch mission to take refugees from the Luna colonies had been his final act of heroism. According to Admiral Sergio, he had been killed in the bombings. Then her mother, who was likely still on Earth -in hiding and unable to escape- after an information exchange. Vex always assumed she had been kidnaped and used for ransom by the Earthlings. If she was still alive, no one would ever know. The Promethean brass liked to keep deaths under wraps, even to the victims' next-of-kin. The only comfort she took in it was that her parents had sacrificed themselves for the greater good and trying to save countless more lives. 

    If she was going to follow their footsteps, die, or both, that was how Vex wanted to go.     Not as a hero, but rather as someone who saw that she was unimportant compared to the cause she fought for. 

    (Not a single Promethean was in it for the glory...)

 

    Visiting Mecca had been Laika's idea, naturally. She claimed that Vex needed some time out of the office, just to relax and let go of some of her problems that just could not be helped. Naturally, she had resisted at first, chiding Laika for the suggestion and reminding her that they had a mission to complete the next day that required an early start. The chemist refused to back down, eventually threatening to toss Vex over her shoulder and 'carry her by foot to Mecca if she had to'. Vex caved in, but only on the condition that they didn't stay out past midnight. She had even set a series of alarms on her watch to make sure they didn't. 

    Laika drug her in and out of the throngs of people, dodging and weaving between them and ultimately into line at a food stand. Vex managed to catch a glimpse of the menu board, eyes widening a little. "I-"

     "You look like you need something sweet and so do I." Laika grinned smugly. "So hush and trust me." She squeezed her hand a little, keeping her close and out of harms' way. 

    Vex chuckled a little. "You know me too well..." 

    "Well, I would hope so," Laika faked offense. "It's no relationship if people don't know each other or trust each other." She continued with the dramatic tone, launching into a full monologue about the meaning of love and relationships, earning a variety of reactions from the people surrounding them and a small laugh from Vex. They were next in line before she finally shut up. Several people applauded her -Laika was persistent and good at making logical conclusions, so quoting an old "Love is patient, love is kind" passage earned her a bit of respect. 

    "What can I do for you ladies this evening?" The young stall employee -likely the son or nephew of the owner- smiled, leaning on the countertop.  

    "A King's Throne and a Boston cream float." Vex ordered for the both of them, fully aware that the berry-based sweet was Laika's favourite. She still had yet to figure out why they called it a King's Throne, but she assumed it was because the berries looked like the adornments on a throne, or something along those lines. Vex would happily stick to her overload of chocolates. She swiped her hand over the sensor, paying for the treat. Their pay as Agents was more than sufficient for the inexpensive lifestyle of Mecca, and a nice "thank you" for constantly putting their lives at risk.

    In Vex's mind, if she was going to die on the mission tomorrow, she was going to eat as many sweets as she wanted the night before. (Better to die happy, right?) 

    Almost instantly and as if reading her mind, Laika nodded as she popped a bright green berry into her mouth. "Mmm...Don't worry. I double and triple checked the security at the rendezvous point. Even having Johansson as a sniper, we'll be okay." She wrapped her free arm around Vex's shoulders. "So take a deep breath of city air, let your eardrums get blown out from the music in a club, and just let loose for a few hours." Her optimism was painfully infectious, Vex would often admit, albeit reluctantly.  

    "I know, but I just......" She swallowed the mouthful of chocolate before continuing. "I just have a really bad feeling about this, that's all..."  

 

 

    The morning came too early for them, curled up against each other for whatever warmth they could obtain for their bare bodies. However, despite the exhaustion that clung to them, neither woman regretted their actions in the slightest. The release of tension was greatly needed, especially on the eve of a highly dangerous covert mission. 

("Covert" had a vastly different meaning within the ranks of Prometheus. When everything one does is technically unknown to the general populace, covert tends to mean that not even your own colleagues know what you're doing.)

    Vex brought her hand down on the alarm clock, silencing the shrill, annoying buzz that it emitted. With one last long groan and shift of limbs untangling from each other, she sat up and stretched her arms above her head. She loathed the cold that bit at her flesh, but it was enough to jolt her awake. The Commander leaned down over the still attempting to sleep woman at her side and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. 

    "Come on sleepyhead...Time to go back to Terra..." Vex said softly, smiling a little as Laika opened her eyes again slowly. 

     "Do I have to?" 

    Vex nodded sadly. "I wish I could say no, but think of the new datasets we can obtain from the Renegades...You could finish your blast research..." She nudged her encouragingly as a sleepy grin spread across Laika's face.  

    "That's a compelling argument, but I'm too warm to move." She grumbled, still smiling a little bit. This was why Vex always set her alarm ten minutes early. She loved these little moments too much to disregard them for the sake of punctuality.

    Vex rolled her eyes playfully. "You're a cold-blooded organism, Kia." She chuckled warmly. "You'll adapt in a few minutes."  

    "That's too long of a time." 

    "I'll bring you your robe...."

    "..."

    Vex sighed and raised her eyebrows expectantly. 

    "...fine." Laika finally sat up, only narrowly avoiding a collision with Vex. "But we're getting fruit cups the minute we get back, got it?" 

     The commander chuckled again, shaking her head a little. "You're insufferable..."

    "But you love me."

    "Touché." Vex sighed, leaving a small kiss on her cheek before standing up and tugging her underwear back on. She chose to ignore the mess of clothes that laid scattered across the floor surrounding their bed, deciding that she would deal with it later if she had time. If not, it would be fine until they returned in a day or so. "We'll go to the mess hall before the armory." She explained, now pulling on her jumpsuit. Vex just wanted to be warm. "That way we don't draw any unwanted attention."

    "Agreed." Laika finally decided to sit up and dress herself. 

    Generally, the barracks were only heated enough for the inhabitants to survive in order to reduce inorganic emissions and conserve power. Granted, the invention of liquid-nitrogen powered engines had revolutionized technology for the exoplanet colonies, the Outer Rim manufacturing plant was on Pluto, and the imports only came in once every two Earth months thanks to the planetary rotations. Most of the Outer Rim colonists would never see the completion of a Solar Year in their lifetimes, so the early officials decided that following the traditional Earth calendar would be ideal. Last time anyone had heard, Pluto's sub-government had decided to begin construction of a second colony to account for the growing number of employees in the factories. 

    Vex laced her boots up, banging her heel on the floor to make sure the fit was snug. "Did you decide who from your lab was going with us?" She tied the knot twice and tucked the laces behind themselves to avoid tripping. 

    "Richlieu and Ziegler." Laika zipped up the jumper and held a glove between her teeth as she pulled on and secured the other. 

     "A geneticist and a medic?" Vex looked back over her shoulder at her. "No forensics? Arson specialists? Chemists?"

    Laika shot her a deadpan look. "I know what I'm doing and what I need to add to the UDB and what sections I can complete on this trip." 

     There was a moment of pause as Vex tried to find her logic. "But I thought you said that he databank wouldn't be complete in any respect unless you got ahold of the Galra's primary computer?" She received no reply from the woman. "Oh no. No. Don't even think about it." Vex stood up and shook her head. 

    "Vex, I know what I'm doing, you need to tr-"

    "Nope. We're not having this conversation." Vex waved her hands in front of her dismissively. "No."

    Laika stood her ground. "Vex, it's not hard to gain access to, it's just a matter of-" 

    "Laika, you're not going to risk your life!" Vex rose her voice, her tone taking on a new level of desperation. "We're not having this conversation, Lieutenant."  

    "Vex, listen to me for one minute, please..." She reached for Vex hands and held them gently. "The Galra are a hive-minded collective. All I need to break into the mainframe is one of their sentries." 

    Vex closed her hands around Laika's and let out a deep sigh. She pulled her into a hug and rested her cheek on her chest. "That doesn't change the fact that you actually have to come in contact with a squadron of soldiers first...." Vex pointed out quietly. "I can't..." Her voice broke and she sniffled. Laika wrapped her arms around the commander tightly, kissing the top of her head. "...I can't risk loosing you." 

 

 

    + + + 

 

 

    Naxella, once fully restored as it should have been, became a peaceful world; a technological marvel in the solar system where it resided and filled with scientists and artists from every corner of the universe. Some called it the heart of all modern scientific advancement, others said it was groundbreaking for it's equality and unity policies, and according to those who came as refugees from war-torn worlds, their justice systems were unparalleled. Those who looked at it from a more pessimistic, critical standpoint considered it a time bomb, ticking closer and closer to it's detonation. Naysayers considered Naxella to be pushing limits that it should not have been pushing, and that eventually, the sheer diversity would backfire, or the government would see a massive paradigm shift once the current monarch died and the peace would eventually crumble to dust.  

    In the centuries since the fall of the Galran empire, those in power scattered to the wind, some trying -and succeeding- to claim entire planets or systems as their own. Some opted for a more peaceful life, retreating to distant worlds and starting from scratch. Many who had been scientists or healers in the old regime made their home on Naxella, willingly giving their allegiance to their queen.  

    "My queen-" The silver-haired woman looked over the holograms surrounding her, hands frozen in poise to enlarge a humanoid DNA model. She flicked her wrist and the gentle piano music halted. "-the delegates from Kronos have arrived." 

    She nodded, golden eyes closing with the motion. "Thank you, Mirok." The queen said calmly and the messenger bowed. She saved her data before closing the holograms down.  

    Honerva shed the pale blue coat that covered her dress and laid it over the back of her desk chair before shaking her hair out of its bun and set her headpiece back on her head. The scaultrite and titanium weighed down on her, but not enough to cause her discomfort. 

    "And the other delegates?" She asked, flattening her skirt a little. "Have they arrived or made contact yet?"

    Mirok shook his head. "No, Your Majesty. They have not."

    Honerva thought for a moment as her fingers curled around her staff. Her nails drummed against the smooth white fibers and she hummed in contemplation. "Hmph, well..." She said more to herself than the messenger. "While I am in conference with the ministers this afternoon, dispatch the ninth fleet escorts. I want to know what's keeping them." Honerva said pointedly. Four long strides and three taps of her staff against the polished floor and she had closed the distance between herself and the exit. "Show the Kronon delegates to their quarters and have Axius inform them of the situation." 

Honerva trusted very few with anything, even within her own -allegedly- peaceful kingdom. However, the former Grygen queen, Axius Adderran had earned her trust rapidly. Honerva would dare say that she trusted the insect-like woman with her life...

    "Yes, Majesty." Mirok nodded, bowing before walking off down the opposite hall. With a deep sigh and a light shake of her head, Honerva made her way down the pristine hall to her conference. With luck, it would result in the patenting of an entirely new system of clean energy –something Naxella would sorely need in the coming decades...

  

 

+ + +

 

 

    Tucked in the north, in what would have once been Wyoming, if Casey remembered correctly, were mountains. They stretched as high and far as he could see, and snow still covered the highest of the peaks, despite it being the middle of summer. 

    "That's Winona Base?" Casey yelled over the winds. Aaron had opened a smaller gunman's hatch in the hull for him to see. 

    "Aye! She's through the Rockies, laddie!" They laughed a little, clearly happy to be back. "Up an' hidden in the rock faces, she is!" Aaron's hair was a mess from the wind, pure and simple and they had not yet hidden the marks that decorated their face. "Mind the face! We're 'bout to skim the trees!" As if on cue, branches whipped past as the carrier dipped below the tree line. "C'mon back in 'ere, Casey, we're going in." The winds picked up even more as Aaron pulled Casey back towards the center of the hold by his shirt sleeve. "Okay, so here's rules. One, no talkin'. Leave that to the resta' us. Two, do what they tell ya, when they tell ya, trust me, makes everything load's easier."  

    Casey nodded. "Makes sense.." 

    "Right, three, stick with who they assign ya to, the base is huge and we don't want ya getting' lost." Another nod. "Behave, no running away."

    Casey quirked a brow. "Am I a prisoner, or..?" 

    Aaron barked out a laugh. "Oh, no, ancients no. We just cannae have anyone trying to give us away, yeah? Intentionally or not." 

    The white-haired boy nodded slowly. There was an awful screeching of metal-on-metal as the craft touched down in the hanger. Aaron slid their helmet back on and clicked an almost invisible button on the side to activate the technology within. The faceplate lit up with statistics and analysis boards, most of which were dismissed by a flick of their wrist.     They moved to help Casey stand, but the boy blatantly ignored the offer. Aaron didn't seem fazed.  

    As a hatch opened in the hull, Casey was met with orders being shorted, rapid footsteps thundering, and the clicks, whirs, and screeches of machinery. From what he could tell, they were inside the mountain itself. Three other small carriers touched down within seconds of each other, kicking up wind and dust before their thrusters settled to a halt.     Cassidy craned his neck to look up at the closing hatches in the vaulted ceilings that they had come through, marveling at the steel and iron structures that held it all together from within. Small drones zipped through the air, some hauling lightweight packages, and others just alone. 

    Casey's wonderment was interrupted sharply. "Oi mate, Captain Holt want's to talk with ya." Aaron popped up behind Casey, who jumped nearly a foot in the air. He nodded. 

    "A-alright? Who's Captain Holt?" 

    His question was answered when Aaron stepped to the side, revealing a tall, lanky boy in a more traditional military uniform. "Cassidy Issacs?" He held his hand out. Despite the blank expression he wore, the captain's eyes seemed friendly enough, tucked behind round glasses and a mop of light brown hair that matched his eyes. "I'm Captain Colin Holt, US Renegades. It's good to see they got you out safe." Casey figured that he couldn't be much older than late twenties, judging by the light pitch of his voice. Still, the man seemed harmless enough, but why exactly was he so concerned about his well-being? 

    Casey shook his hand. "It's good to meet you, sir. I suppose I have Aaron to thank for that, right?" 

    Colin laughed a little, a sweet sound that radiated kindness. Maybe the Renegades weren't what everyone thought they were..... "In part yes, but Michaelson is a better shot than they are a medic. From what I hear, Ashley had you patched up before anyone else even knew where you were." There was a light chuckle in his tone which put Casey a little more at ease. These people were not hostile... yet. "But, they're also a magnificent tour guide for our newest recruits and refugees, so I'm sure they've got no issue showing you around and finding quarters for you." Colin looked over at Aaron, who was rocking back and forth on their heels, radiating the outward energy and appearance of a bored child.     Aaron snapped out of their daze and flashed Colin and Casey a bright smile. 

    "Aye aye, Cap," Three long strides was all it took for them to reach Casey's side. "I'll get'im fixed up proper." Aaron looped their arm around Casey's, earning a questioning look. Aaron ignored it. "Shall we, laddie?" 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    "Promethium shuttle Demeter, you are cleared for landing. Be advised that you will be checked for clearance by security upon arrival."

    "Roger that, Jagger Outpost. We will comply." Vex kept the radio channel open as Laika engaged the landing gear. There was an awful scrape of metal on metal and metal on stone as the hanger doors struggled open beneath them. 

    The shuttle eased onto the stone landing pad, swarmed almost instantly by armed guards. Colin held his glasses in place until the winds from the thrusters died down on the Demeter, face void of his usual smile. From what he understood, the Promethians had sent one of their commanders to discuss the recent series of attacks they had been fighting off. The duo that stepped off the ramp looked mis-matched right off the bat, despite the full armor that covered them. Colin knew better than to be quick to judge, and decided to withhold any rash opinions until after he had formally met them. He had learned the hard way to avoid miscommunications with their assassin-like partners who made their home in the stars. One slip up could cost him his rank -or worse.  

    "Commander Tomlin, welcome to Jagger Outpost." Colin said formally, posture stick-straight and professional. "I am Ca-"

    "Captain Colin Holt, CO of Winona Base." Laika -who still wore her helmet- spoke up. "We know."

    Colin was a little taken aback. The light echoing ring of the voice was not caused by the helmet, but by the speaker's natural tone. That, coupled with the odd shape of her helmet, made it very clear to him that at least this member of the crew was not human. 

     Vex was the first to remove her helmet and tucked it under her arm. She stepped forward, equally as formal, and held her hand out to Colin. "I am Commander Vexyl Tomlin. I trust we will keep this short and concise?" She asked curtly as she shook his hand. 

    Colin nodded. "Naturally. You're not the only one around here who wants this resolved."

    "Then I'm sure we can come to an agreement quickly." Vex said flatly, face void of any emotion other than mild annoyance. "The governments here have a... mediaeval view towards Extraterrestrials. Perhaps a renewed alliance between our divisions will form the basis of a proper rebellion and we can end this war once and for all." 

    Colin nodded. This Commander was no older than him, by the looks of her, but the way she carried herself......it was unnerving, in a way... "Agreed. And perhaps our chemists will be able to exchange information and come to their own consensus as well. Having the scientific backing that we need more support against the Galra's new weapons." 

    "We need all of the data you can give us," Vex spoke crisply, walking beside Colin as Laika and the rest of her crew trailed behind them. Less than ten meters later, all but Laika and Vex were detained. The Commander looked up at Colin with a raised brow.  

    "I'm sorry, Commander. This is a restricted area. You and you're Lieutenant are the only outsiders allowed here." Colin explained sincerely, "We have a very fragile relation with the rest of the world as it is. We can't take any risks with anyone..."

    Truly, Colin seemed genuinely apologetic in tone and manner, clearly meaning no disrespect to his guests.

     "...understood." Vex nodded and peered over her shoulder at the confused snipers. "Stay here, do as they say. I don't want any trouble." It was a moment before their agreements came, and Vex quirked a brow. "And that's an order." 

 

 

 

    "Don't be shy, have a seat and make yourself comfortable."

    The conference room was a stark contrast to the pristine chambers and corridors on Kerberos... Exposed structures and mechanics decorated the rock face in little alcoves cut out of the dark walls, all lit by the flickering yellow-tinted lights that hung from the uneven ceiling. Aside from breaking, the only sound in the chilly air was the buzzing and humming of machinery, with an occasional hiss as pressure levels in the piping changed. 

    Vex gladly took a seat at the metal table, realizing quickly that she was incredibly lucky to have the quality of facilities on Kerberos. "So, Captain..... Tell me everything.” 

    "And start from the beginning." Laika tacked on, sitting beside her commander with her hands folded on the table. "Do not omit any information, Captain Holt."

 

+ + +   

 

 

    "...and right on down here is the public access archives..." Aaron took a sharp turn to the right, almost too fast for Casey to process. "Majors ain't usually too worried about who's in here, 's all public domain info, nothin' classified." They explained, hands locked behind their back. Aaron walked with long, silent strides, hands clasped right-over-left, and head held high. "Lotsa the stuff in 'ere that the rest a' the governments tried burnin' back in the 2260's."

     Casey tipped his head a little, curious. He remembered from history that the 2260's were the 23rd century equivalent of the burning of the libraries at Alexandria, but with the same methods that Hitler had used three centuries earlier. It was a rather violent period, especially after the Fall of Voltron that set off the chain reaction that caused the wars... "How did you guys get ahold of that stuff? I thought the Oslo servers were destroyed?" 

    Aaron shook their head, red curls bouncing a little. "Nope. See, the Galaxy Garrison an' the Voltron Coalition had off-record servers an' stored arse-loads a' info in their own systems." They grinned, keying in the passcode. "Double-zero nine two. That's the code. Got that, laddie?" Aaron asked as the door hissed open. The pair almost ran into an older female as they entered.

    "Hey! Watch i- Sergeant Michaelson? I thought you were on duty tonight?" She asked, adjusting her glasses.  

    "Romelle." Aaron's grin didn't fade. "Babysit'in'. Cap's got me watchin' and' touring the newbie."

     The blonde woman rolled her eyes. "Feicym gur chuir Colin sryan ort tar éys imeacht cha Las Vegas....?"

    Aaron rolled their eyes. "Sea tá fhyos agram. Ní gá dúinn ya' bheyth ag caint faoi syn, Romelle."

    Casey quirked a brow at them noting with surprise that the woman had the same markings that Aaron did, but in blue. The sheer weight in her eyes and in the lines on her face was almost sobering. If she was even half of what Aaron was, she had likely seen her share of war... 

    Romelle sighed and shook her head, a slight smile on her face. "Always trying to stay on his good side..." She looked over at Casey. "I suppose this is the Newbie?"  

    Aaron nodded, scooting Casey up and into Romelle's line of sight. "Yep. Cassidy Issacs, meet Major Romelle O'Toule. She's our librarian and-" Aaron paused to smile a little bit "-the last pure-blooded Altean in the System." 

    "And your auntie." Romelle tacked on, finally smiling. "For whatever it's worth."  

    Aaron sighed and stuffed their hands in their pockets. "Yeah well.... You're also the only person around here who was alive during the rebellion in the 2120's and knew the Paladins personally."

    Romelle's smile fell and she held the tablets a little closer to her chest, "Yes, well... clearly that holds no meaning these days..."

     Had Aaron struck a nerve with her? Casey wondered. Of course they had. Voltron was a sensitive topic, no matter who was talking to who or when it was being talked about...

    "So..." Casey inhaled, held it for a moment, and let it all out slowly before continuing. "All of the data that was saved from the Garrison and the Coalition...how much of it pertains to Voltron itself?" He asked, biting the corner of his lip nervously. The last thing Casey wanted was to upset anyone... 

    The Alteans exchanged an uneasy glance and Romelle shook her head, clearly trying to discourage Aaron from doing anything that either one would regret. It didn't seem to take hold, and her glare hardened. Aaron's response was a scoff and an eye roll. 

    "If it's Voltron you want" -Aaron flashed Casey a wide grin- "then it's Voltron you'll get."

Chapter Text

colonists

 

    In the early years 23rd century, Earth was split in two. 

    On one side of the conflict were the Praecessori, who resisted the invasions and believed that Earth was a stronghold that would withstand whatever was brought upon it. They believed that humanity was the superior race, and that all those not born to human parents were inferior, and should be killed. It is because of the Praecessori that the war continues, and that alien races on Earth and her colonies are hunted to the brink of extinction. 

    But on from this brutality, factions of resistance combined to become the Aemulatori. These people had chosen to see through the lies and propaganda that the Praecessori leaders spread across the globe. Those who led the Aemulatori decided to split themselves into two factions that would coexist amongst the cosmos and create a network of resistance throughout our solar system. The tattered remains of the Galaxy Garrison -Earth's last neutral organization- sided with the Aemulatori and their choice to send a group of elite pilots and soldiers to a remote colony in the farthest reaches of the system, where the Praecessori could never find them. 

    These factions were named Prometheus -those who would bring fire to the tyrants of Earth and salvation to the innocents- and the Renegades, who would live outside of the laws that the Praescessori had built to govern their new world order, smuggling refugees of every race and species to other, more secret colonies. 

    The most notable of these colonies?

    The Haven. 

    It is said that the founder of The Haven was the descendent of an agent of Marmora, an ancient organization of resistance that had fought for thousands of years against the Galra. The founder took the technology of the Marmora and tucked a distant moon in a pocket of gravity, making it virtually invisible to those who knew nothing of its existence. Inside of this pocket of space time lies the core of all Aemulatori operations. 

    Or at least it was...

    A century passed, and the governments crumbled into dust. Anarchy swept across the globe, and the colonies of Earth fell. 

    The wars carried to Luna, where the colonists had tried to isolate themselves from the conflict. Within a year, the peaceful moon was a desolate wasteland, and Martia soon after. It is entirely unknown what fate Martia suffered. Conspiracies flooded about like a plague, some suggesting that the entire planet was wiped out, while more mild and believable theorists said that the cities that existed were bombed to ash ("Like the poor souls on Luna..." they would lament. Pity became a hopeless cure.)  

    Now, Earth's only remaining civilization resides within great, walled cities. But even there, the humans are not safe. What was formerly Altean technology protects them as long as possible, or until the Galra smoke them out. 

     The only country seemingly unaffected is Japan, but their boarders have been closed for three hundred years. No one knows what goes on behind their shields....

  

    Legend has it that in the final days before the blanket of anarchy fell over the system, the last surving leader of the Aemulatori made a decision that would change the tides of history and send the world on an irreversible path. However, it seemed that in doing so, all hope would be lost... Forever. 

    His name was Coran Smythe, the only known survivor of the Voltron Massacre. In a last-ditch effort to protect the innocent people of Earth, he sent the greatest powers known to the universe across the farthest reaches of time reality.

     It was his final living act, and in doing so, Coran brought a relentless anarchy upon the system.

     Voltron -it seemed- was no more......

Chapter Text

       "Wait, are you trying to tell me that you-" Casey stared at Aaron and Romelle with wide, disbelieving eyes. Everything he had been taught in school -that Voltron was nothing more than a menace that had been wiped clean from the earth- was quickly becoming a blatant lie, according to these people. He was having a difficult time believing it, and quite frankly, it was all a little too much to take in. "-actually have information about....Voltron?!" 

    The Alteans nodded in sync, clearly baffled by his ignorance. 

    "Wait," Romelle shook her head, frowning. "Do your governments -your schools- still wash over that part of history in such a way?"

    Cassidy shrugged. "Yeah? I mean, it's just common knowledge that the paladins betrayed the planetary alliance. The paladins were traitors. That officer who defected to the Praecessori, disbanded the coalition, and destroyed the lions was right to do what he did. He saved the world from a lot of trouble." He explained, not sure how such basic schooling seemed to escape the grasps of the Renegades. 

    Aaron let out a long, slow breath before pinching the bridge of their nose. "Oi.....mate, they really did a number on ya' noggin as a wee 'bitty bairn, eh?" 

    "Huh?" 

    "Laddie, Admiral Smythe didn'a such thing as blowing the lions t' kingdom come." Aaron sucked in another breath, trying to figure out how to explain everything properly.  

    "He did what King Alfor did nearly eleven thousand years go..." Romelle said gently, "He sent the lions off into the farthest reaches of space, out of the hands of his enemy -our enemy..."

    Cassidy's brows furrowed in thought. "Then..." He paused, struggling to piece together his thoughts in a way that would make verbal sense. Casey could practically recite the entire weeks' worth of lessons about the Fall of Voltron from his days in the 7th grade.

  

   "...and the year 2145 showed a remarkable paradigm shift, when the liberal extremist groups began to blend together with the famed Voltron Coalition, forming the now-extinct Aemulatori. The Aemulatori fought with the extraterrestrials that threatened to corrupt Earth's civilizations. They believed that Earth should open its resources up to the rest of the universe and become the central dogma of all intergalactic relations and releif programs after the first wave of Galra were expelled from the system..."

   Cassidy spun his stylus absently, occasionally clicking it against his head as the teacher rambled on and on. A few names got stuck in his memory, while most everything else just flew in one ear and out the other. When he did finally lower the stylus to his screen, It was to doodle in the margins of the lined text box of the notes app he used.

   "Psst, Issacs."

   The poke at the back of his neck was enough to get his attention as a little message box appeared in the corner of his screen.

   {Did u hear what he said? About how the Paladins just abandoned earth for almost 5yrs while the Galra attacked and took over the planet? XoX} Yvette's avatar mimicked the last emoji she sent with the message, repeating the face on a loop.

   Cassidy roiled his eyes a little. {yeah...pretty shitty of them. 10/10 glad the government wiped them out XD}

   {ikr? Not like they did much to help the war effort once they got back. Fckng bleeding hearts trying to keep the peace or whatever shit they spouted.} 

   {smh and all those people they killed when they got here finally?} 

    "...it was not until the early 2150's that the systems that the Aemualtori and Praecessori finally collapsed. Does anyone know what event caused the collapse?"

    Yvette raised her hand. "That would be the Voltron massacre, sir. Without the support from the coalition, the Aemulatori could no longer fight back against the forces of the Praecessori." 

    "Yes, exactly." Mr. McHeuan nodded. "And what about the Praecessori? Does anyone know what happened to that faction?"

    The kid to Cassidy's left raised his hand. "Yes sir. They became our governing system after Voltron was destroyed."

  

"...why would they think that they were destroyed?" Casey asked, looking up at them. "I don't understand. If Voltron wasn't some self-righteous entity, what was it? They were responsible for millions of deaths and could have prevention billions more. Why didn't they?"

    Aaron quirked a brow at their aunt and Romelle sighed. "Follow me..." She turned on her heel and walked off towards the farthest corner of the library.  

    The corner was home to three towering shelves of storage nodes and electronic files, tablets, and disks, and a round table with four chairs sat in the middle. There were ports for each kind of device on various places on the table, and the table itself seemed to shimmer in the blue-white light. (Which did not hum or buzz like normal fluorescent lights).The tech did not look to be of Earthen origin... 

    "Have a seat," Romelle stated evenly as she deposited her tablets on one of the empty chairs. She began sifting through the file directory on the nearest shelf, and the faint blue glow lit up her face. Casey studied her closely. Romelle was clearly aging, evident by the soft lines at the corners of her eyes and lips, and how her knuckles were slightly more prominent as she typed. If she was human, Casey would have pegged her for late 40's.   

     Five or so awkward minutes later, she returned to the table with a small flash drive-like device and stuffed it into the port in front of Aaron at the table. Instantly, a rush of documents exploded into holograms over the table. "This..." She organized them a little. "Is the Fall of Voltron..."

    Casey's eyes widened as he skimmed the reports, articles, and video footage. "What the hell...." The words came in a breath-like whisper, unbelieving of the raw images he saw. He knew of the paladins, and how they were given a honourable burials after their deaths, (with two stark exceptions, but no one knew the final resting places of the black and blue paladins...) but everything that happened just after... How those who tried to fill their shoes, the families of the Paladins... Their fates were far more horrific. 

    Brother of Former Green Paladin Katie Holt Killed in Boston Shooting

    Veronica Serrano Dies in House Fire -Family Missing and Presumed Dead; Police and Investigators Baffled

    Esteemed Garrison Scientist Samuel Holt and Wife Killed in Fatal Lab Accident 

    Aemulatori Ambassador Krolia Kogane Assassinated During Hong Kong Peace Summit

    Family of Late Yellow Paladin Hunk Garret Missing After Local Bomb Threats

    Wife of Aemulatori Commander Coran Smythe Found Dead in Seattle Home; Authorities Suspect Homicide

    And so the lists went on. Headline after headline recounting unsolved murders and kidnapings, all within a span of three weeks. A news coverage of the chaos and tragedies from Christmas of that same year was the first to dub the series of events "The Voltron Massacure", and was the first to lay blame on the Praecessori. 

    Romelle was hunched forward in her seat, mouth covered by her laced fingers. Clearly the woman was lost in deep thought and memory, stirred up by the holographs pulled up in front of her. 

    "Do you understand now the horrors that your governments have wrought?" She asked coldly. Casey did not think her capable of such a tone. "Upon an uncountable number of lives?"

    Aaron had pulled a newspaper over to their side of the table and was scrolling through it, chin propped up on a fist. They seemed oddly calm despite the nature of what they were reading.  

 

    "I just don't get it, Vetti." Cassidy slung his bag over his shoulders as the bell rang for the last time that day. "If Voltron was this horrible abomination, why did earth even allow it to come?"

    Yvette shrugged, sipping the remains of her tea through a straw. By now it was ice cold, but she paid it no attention. "I mean, the last paladins were human, so I guess it was out of pity? Or maybe the Garrison defenses were too weak to fully eradicate the Galra before the planet collapsed? Who knows..." Another sip, drawn out and thoughtful. "Like, when you think about it, I don't think anyone really knew about all of the consequences. Remember what Mrs. Rhudauh says. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Cassidy nodded. "True, but couldn't that also apply to the Praecessori?" Not unlike usual, he decided to delve further into a more philosophical nature. "Like, after Voltron was gone, they had power over the way the rest of the world thought...And look what happened? The war just broke out even worse, and it's now in it's 250th year..." 

    Yvette discarded the paper cup in a recycling bin as they passed it before tying her ebony hair back in a ponytail. "Casey, that's not something that you should be-"

    "I know, but still." Cassidy cut her off, sparing an absent glance at a patrolling officer. He lowered his tone as he spoke again, leaning close to her. "It makes sense...History is written differently depending on the perspective and bias... How do we know this isn't all a lie?"

  

    Casey lowered his head in submission. "Yes, I do understand..."

    "Do you really?" Romelle fired back, finally capturing Aaron's attention again as they dismissed the article. "Do you really understand what life is like behind your guarded walls? If a lie so simple as that we -the Renegades- are responsible for the sieges, then what other lies have they possibly managed to work into your core thought process?" She was completely, utterly astounded. She had once suffered life behind the Walls. When the government came to fear Voltron, and the paladins passed from old age or sickness and their families hunted, she too had fallen victim. Her own wife and child ripped from her, just like so many others... 

    (She could still see their faces -the paladins, all of them. It mattered not anymore...)

    The white-haired boy bit his lip and was silent for a long while, contemplating his reply. He would not speak unless he was absolutely certain of his words. 

    "No..." There was another pause. "I do not..." 

    "Well you'll be learning the hard way that life itself is nothing to take for granted," Romelle said bitterly. "And that leaders must not be so blindly followed, believed, and obeyed..."

 

 

    + + +   

 

 

    Easy, relaxing jazz played from the holographic jukebox in the corner, adding to the old-world, 2060's atmosphere in the bar. The lights offered soft yellow, orange, and red hues across the classic wood tables and bartop, all polished and waxed to mirror-like perfection, and the waiters and waitresses that milled about donned traditional slacks, button-downs, and vests, most adorned with flowers on the lapel and bow-ties. Violet was the preferred colour of both. 

    The volume of chatter was bearable, as it seemed many patrons would much rather listen to the ebb and flow of the music than the tones of each other's voices. It was a good environment for focusing on one's job and making polite conversation with the patrons, (just how she liked it).

    The claws of bartender Kit Braxer clinked against the glass bottle she held as she poured the aged bourbon into a crystal glass before sliding it down to the middle-aged woman who ordered it. 

   "Cider iceberg, if you would, Milady." The ordering voice was that of a male, and Kit flinched. Her head flicked back over her shoulder to the newcomer, and her hearts skipped a beat. 

    You've gotta be kidding me... She had to fight the urge to groan. Even all the way out here, and they still find me...

    "Hello Throck." Kit greeted the soldier flatly. "Cider 'berg, was it?" It was going to be strictly business, no nonsense, nothing.

   A nod from the man and Kit pulled the bottles from the shelves, being careful to keep at least one eye on him. She had never trusted the Galra, not once in her one hundred and ten years of life. It took an incredible amount of willpower for her not to brandish the knife she used to slice the lemons like a weapon. Nevertheless, her knuckles turned pale blue from how tight she gripped it.

    "You look a little stressed out, Kitty."

    Gee, I wonder why... Kit closed her eyes before they rolled back in her head. "Just a few orders that are a bit behind schedule..." She lied, squeezing the lemon juice into a shot glass before adding the apple liquor and stirring it carefully. 

    (No matter how much she disliked a patron, it would be sacrilegious to ruin or waste good liquors...)

    Throck nodded, but the action did not hold much conviction. "Hm... I know you too well to believe that a matter as simple as a late shipment has those ears pinned back so far."  

    She focused her eyes on the swirling blue Drexalian gin that she poured into the flute. If memory served, the citrus from the lemon juice would cause a reaction that chilled the gin and turned it to a slushee-like consistency, giving the drink it's name. Kit refused to reply as she scooted the icy drink in the Galra Commander's direction. 

    "Many thanks, my dear." His tone was sarcastically sweet, and far too polite to be sincere.  

   Kit wanted to slap him. She choked out a sickening "My pleasure" and went about pouring a refill of bourbon for the woman on the other side of the bar, doing her best to ignore the feeling of yellow eyes on her. With any luck at all, he would realize her gross lack of interest and leave within a few minutes, and she would be able to escape her shift without inflicting any damage on him. (Or without being followed again...)

   By his second refill, Kit made the executive decision to quit after the night was over and leave the planet again, perhaps back to the protected surface of Haven for a little while...

   "So have you given our proposal any more thought, Kitty?" Throck quirked an inquisitive brow at her, propping his chin up on his palm. "You'd be more than welcomed back within our ranks, if you so choose."

    Kit's ears flicked in annoyance before pinning back against her mop of fiery red hair. "No thanks." She said flatly. "I'm not a killer, Commander. Never have been, never will be." She paused, considering her words. "So you lot can take your proposals and stuff 'em up your ass." 

    Evidently, her words were poorly timed and had the exact effect she thought they would. Throck stood up with such a speed that knocked the barstool over -loudly- and snatched her by the lapel, crushing the delicate violet rose in his fist. Kit didn't flinch.

   "Sir, you are manhandling an employee." She stated evenly. "I will have you removed and bared from this establishment if you do not release me right now."

   His eyes narrowed dangerously and a low growl rumbled in his throat. It was a solid fifteen seconds before he let go of her with a slight push, enough to make her stumble. The commander tossed a few coins (that were -predictably- void in that particular region) onto the bar-top and walked off, leaving the stool on the ground. 

    Kit huffed and straightened her vest before discarding the destroyed flower and cleaning up the small mess. Hopefully, she would never have to encounter him again...

 

+ + +     

 

 

   "...so yeah, that's everything..." Colin held his hands up in surrender and leaned back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other. Laika was enthralled in the data he had called up hours earlier on a Holo, and was currently near the end of the sixth log. It was fascinating...  

   "Right." Vex was not convinced that he was telling the whole truth, but she did not say anything outright. "And the most recent siege laid? Havana City, was it?"

   Colin nodded, "Yes indeed, Commander. The last city in the Caribbean Loop to have a six-figure population." 

   "If taken, it would have been a major win for the Galra." Vex concluded, earning another nod. "And? The status of the city walls?" 

   "Maria fell within hours," Colin explained. "But the second wall, Aquarius, remained standing. Our thunderbirds got in after the first wave of civilians fled and wiped out their forces. We've put up another blockade shield that will hold them off until we know how to fully counteract their weapons." 

   "Which may be sooner than you think, Captain." Laika spoke up, eyes not leaving the holo. "They're using older tech again. Back from before they even came to Earth initially. Look." She flicked the page around and showed them. Vex leaned forward and squinted a little at the writing. "It's nanothermite titanium boron. A whopping three planets within two light years produce it. It's like Scaultirte, damn impossible to get ahold of and relatively harmless, but once you do, it can be refined to lethality."

   "But you have that one cataloged in the UDB," Vex countered. "I thought you said the chemical residue was entirely unknown?"

   "Yeah, but I never accounted for a chemical fusion explosive." The corner of Laika's mouth line tugged up in a grin. "Think of an old early 21st century crime scene, back when they were still using fiber analysis in investigations. The Galra fusing powerful chemicals into one bomb is gonna throw off readings, especially if the chemicals are spliced on a molecular level. It's the same as weaving a fiber out of both rayon and cotton strands. They wouldn't burn or look like either one under a microscope."

    Colin quirked a brow. "So, what the hell is it mixed with that melts flesh and can level a city with just one bomb?"

    Laika kept scrolling. "The only things I know of that even scrape the surface of being able to do that are raw quintessence and hydrochloric acid, which can melt flesh all on it's own." She shrugged, "If the Galra are using hydrochloride -or worse- quintessence-based weapons now, we're -to put it simply- fucked."

    A heavy silence fell over the room, even with the dull hum from the lights and machinery in the background. No one really wanted to speak first...

    "So," Colin let out an uneasy breath, biting his lips thoughtfully. "How do we counter something like that?” 

    Laika shook her head. "I'll have to take all of this back to my team on the base..." She dismissed the holo with a flick of the wrist, antennae drooped in discouragement. "I can't do anything here without them..." 

    Colin looked a little offended, but seemed to understand. Vex picked up on the tone.

    "What Laika means is that she has a dynamic with her team that she would rather not take the time to attempt to replicate." Vex clarified, splaying her hands out on the table with her palms up and open. "We'll keep in contact with your base, Captain. Lieutenant Ryner's labs are the most advanced in the system. We'll have an answer for you soon. I promise." 

   The captain nodded. "Understood. I'm afraid that over the years, our organizations have managed to distance themselves a little too much. Perhaps you can convince your superiors that we are in desperate needs of more coordinated attacks and defenses."

   "We understand your need for firepower, Captain, but to the best of my knowledge, that part of our alliance ended when we ourselves began to lack resources." Vex explained with a sigh. "I am sorry, Captain. But I do not believe that would be possible." 

    Colin drug his hand down his face tiredly. Thus far it seemed like this meeting was far from mutually beneficial, and it was grating on his nerves. He so desperately wanted to be able to bring his soldiers good news, that they had reinforcements should they ever be able to triangulate an attack large enough to take out the pulse of Galra operations on earth. Such an attack could greatest shift the balance of power in the favour of the Renegades, and they could finally take a strong argument to the rest of Earth's governments, pleas for assistance in finally wiping the vile race of beings from the planet. That was their only goal, that was all it had ever been. Colin -and the rest of the renegades, for that matter- just wanted the wars to be over...     

 

+ + +     

 

    Axius Adderran cursed herself for the seventh time that day for not designing a pair of sound-muffling pads for her legs. 

    The pointed ends of her lower, insect-like appendages clicked and tapped against the pristine tile floors of the Xandra Palace, the sound ricocheting off the walls and vaulted ceilings as she walked beside her -much shorter- friend. Axius towered a solid half-meter over the head of the Queen, who even with her crown perched on her white hair did not quite reach Axius's shoulder.  

    "....and Mirok was sent to determine the location of the remaining delegates and ambassadors." Honerva railed on, complaining more than confiding. She trusted Axius like a sister, and that often lead to such conversations, where one or the other was more so venting or complaining than formally trying to resolve issues.  

    "But I fear that something may have happened to them along the way. Lately," Honerva continued, still animating her speech with little hand gestures, "our system holds an increasingly greater threat by the Federation and the Empire... I fear that they are beginning to combine forces." 

    Axius let out a  bit of a breath, nasal slits flaring a little. "Agreed. And should they ever form a more...solid alliance...well, you understand the implications as well as I do." 

    "Empress Drexyal is not one to make such permanent relations, Ax." Honerva chided bitterly. "However, I wouldn't put it above her to form a political alliance and then betray the Galra for her own gain."  

  Axius hummed in acknowledgement. "I would not put anything past her." She grumbled. "That woman is nothing more than a vile, egotistical, selfish-"

     "Easy now." Honerva held up her hand to silence her. "I would rather not have such insults find their way to the ears of others. This is a peaceful kingdom, and I intend to keep it functioning as such." 

    The insect-like woman lowered her head in submission. "I understand, Your Highness." 

    Honerva shook her head. "Honerva will do, Ax. You are my most trusted companion here..." 

    Axius smiled and rested a large, spindly hand on Honerva's shoulder. "As you are mine, Honerva."

 

 

 

     "Commander Unuwa, status report of the seven missing Ambassador vessels?" Honerva waited for the doors to hiss shut behind her and Axius before speaking again. "Have we heard anything yet?"

     The commander was a second-generation Naxellan, with an Unilu mother and a Galran father. His extra set of arms made his job quite a bit easily as he clicked and tapped at the communications consol. "That's a negative, Your Majesty." Unuwa huffed out a sigh.

     "What about other unauthorized signals or vessels?" Honerva asked, brow drawn in concern. She kicked her skirts out a little as she sat down behind the rows of control stations. "Anything unusual?" 

     Axius's legs made a similar clicking sound as Unuwa's motions across the panel as she came to a rest behind Honerva's miniaturized throne. "What are you suspecting?" She lowered her head next to Honerva's, keeping her tone down. 

     "I do not know, and that is what is most frightening." Honerva drummed her fingers along the shaft of her walking stick and crossed a leg over the other. 

     She did not fear the unknown, but it had always been mildly unsettling to her. Honerva hated -no, loathed not knowing...

     "All traffic in Naxellan space territory has gone dark, Majesty." The commander turned around in his seat and faced them. "Should I run a deep-space scan?" 

     Honerva ran though the possible implications if someone unfriendly detected their frequencies. "Yes, but raise planetary shields. If suspicion is raised, they will be considered a systems test to determine weather or not upgrades are needed." 

     Unuwa nodded. "Of course." 

    The station in which they sat orbited comfortably around the protective shell that was going to rise around the planet. Here, Honerva was able to maintain a rigid presence outside of the atmosphere and keep a close eye on the core's status without alarming the general population. 

    And it reminded her of her life before her exile from the Empire, where she commanded stars and entire galaxies, and had the will of space-time wrapped around her little finger. 

     It was a nice feeling.

     "Commander," Honerva spoke suddenly, leaning forward a little to rest her elbow on her knee.

    "Yes?" Unuwa turned back around. 

    Honerva sucked in a breath, eyes fixed out at the stars and the sloftly glowing planet beneath them. "Recalibrate the sensors for Komar-refined quintessence emissions. I want to see who is still using that technology in this area..." 

    "Right away, Your Highness." He spun around and carried out his orders as Honerva stood up and began circling the room, occasionally peaking over shoulders and observing. Her long skirts trailed behind her as Axius's red eyes followed her before she moved to stand on the center platform. Spindly green fingers called up dialogue screens and absently read over them. 

    "Ensign Opfer, adjust standard course by .0189 Radials, due orbital north," Axius ordered, peaking past the screen to the ensign in question. Honerva looked back at her with a raised brow. 

    "Shift in magnetic fields, Ax?" 

    She nodded. "As usual with the initialization of planetary shields." The woman nodded. She slipped a hand into one of her robe pockets. "I don't want any accidents." 

    "Madam Advisor," Ensign Opfer looked back at Axius. "That would put us in position to launch defenses..." She said hesitantly, biting her glossed, pierced lip. "Is that what you intend?"

    Honerva had circled around to join her advisor on the main part of the bridge. "Proceed on course adjustment, Ensign." 

    "Aye, Your Majesty." 

    Honerva pulled down one of the holo screens and skimmed across the data. "Commander Unuwa, mirror scanning screens to holo six?" 

    "You got it."

    Honerva's eyes narrowed as she reviewed the data. "Ax, take a look at this?"

    All four of Axius's eyes widened a little. "Alurea ethereil...." 

    "Primary shields up! All command units on Red alert!" 

 

     + + +

 

 

    "These are standard-issue delegate's quarters." The door hissed open and the short little alien girl gestured inside. "The ones right next to this are for-"

    "No no, we stay together." Laika practically crushed Vex to her side with as fast as she wrapped her arm around the shorter woman. "So one room is fine, thank you." 

    The little girl nodded hesitantly. "O-okay, Lieutenant. If you insist, it's really no problem." 

    Vex nodded and pealed herself away from her partner. "Yes, thank you Private. This will suffice for us." 

    The girl brought her fist to her chest before lowering it, saluting them. "As you wish, Commander. We will send a comm when it is time for the evening meal."  

    "Yes, of course." Vex smiled a little. "Thank you." 

    Once she was gone, Laika pulled her partner into the room and let the door hiss shut behind them. 

    The room was spacey enough for the both of them comfortably, as well as their luggage. The bed was about the size of theirs on Kerberos, and a short of vanity stood against the wall. To the left was an open door that presumably led to a washroom, and a small wardrobe stood tall next to it. They were both more than used to the metal... 

    "I think we could get changed... recalibrate sensors to measure surface readings from here and communicate with the orbiter..." Laika suggested. "I'll see what I can do about copying over the information from the chip that Captain Holt gave me." 

    Vex nodded. "Agreed." She looked down at her Cuff and pulled up the schematics of the outpost. "I can manage the recalibration," a long sigh escaped her lips and she closed the screen. "The UDB catalogue may take more time than we have here..." 

    "Agreed." Laika wandered around the room, examining each nook and cranny with the same rigor that she would a new microbe. "I've been thinking about the compositions of those bombs again."

     "Of course you have." Was the flat reply that she received. Laika shot her a bored look. 

    "And I've been trying to come up with a way to counteract them on a whim." She began the tedious process of removing her armor, setting each piece down on a table for Vex to later recalibrate.  

    Vex peaked over her shoulder at her. "And what have you got thus far?" 

    The Olkari chemist rolled her eyes and perched on the edge of a chair. "If you'd stop interrupting me, I could tell you." 

    Vex raised a brow, but said no more.  

    "Thus far-" a sigh "-not much is presenting itself. The best direct counteraction to take against hydrochloride is sodium hydroxide, but guess that that makes?" 

    "Table salt?" 

    "Table salt." Laika hissed sarcastically. "And only when mixed to exact proportions." 

     Vex turned around to face her fully, legs crossed and elbows resting on her knees. "There's no way that's the only chemical that can counteract it."

    "No, there's a list." Laika's top set of antenna drooped a little as she drug her hands down her long face. "A very long list."

    "So...then what's the problem?" 

    "Easy -nothing I know of can straight up be pointed at another gun shooting some fucked up Frankenstein-level hydrochloride-plasma blast and instantly neutralize it." Laika groaned in frustration and stood back up, half-armoured. "And that's assuming that their composition is solely hydrochloric plasma. I don't know what the hell to do if it's anything more than that! I mean, if it's quintessence based, I-I-I-I don't know where to even start! After testing was banned in the early 23rd century, no one ever was able to get their hands on it again! And I know that there's still systems that work with it, but they obviously have more safety precautions in place than we do here and on Kerberos, but-"

    "Laika." Vex walked over and placed her hands on her cheeks softly. "Stop." She mumbled, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I believe in you, and I know you will figure something out."

    The young woman let out a shaky breath and leaned against Vex, wrapping her long fingers around her forearms. She took several long, measure breaths as she calmed down, working herself out of the building tizzy she was in. 

    Laika had an awful habit of getting too worked up over things that she simply could not change, and it worried her partner to no end...

 

    + + + 

 

 

    "So..." The very much retired Blade leaned back in his chair, vision slightly obscured through the eyepatch over his right eye. "...how much longer are we going to let this go on?"

    The tall, lanky bartender was defensively cleaning a glass as the off-duty Imperial officers tried to gain more of her attention. Evidently she was getting close to the end of her fuse, based on how violently she had been chopping citrus fruits earlier. Both men recognized them from their own time amid the Imperial ranks, spending their days gathering intel and working through intranet plans to take down the Empire.  

    Next to him, his friend took a long drink from his glass before setting it down and speaking again. His voice had finally began to succumb to age and was a bit more gravely than it had once been. "Until she snaps. Then we wait and see what she does." 

    "Right," He replied, "Don't be hasty."

    His friend nodded, yellow eyes fixed on the situation that was unfolding before them. The former Commander Thace looked down at his glass and swirled the contents around a little, allowing his hearing to help him interpret the surroundings in place of his sight. A small sigh rattled in his rib cage. "Perhaps one of us should speak with her, regardless of the outcome." He suggested simply, "I wouldn't mind seeing why exactly they're interested in her."

    "Hm, agreed." His companion nodded, taking another drink. "One of them mentioned returning to their ranks, so I would venture a guess that she is a former officer." 

     Thace's ear twitched as the volume level increased. The bartender had raised her voice past it's usual calm and something glass was broken harshly. He raised a brow and looked to his friend in question. "Should be intervene yet?"

    "No, I think we hound wait and see how this plays out." The older man suggested, setting his now-empty glass on the polished table. "Just out of curiosity." 

    The retired Commander nodded in agreement and leaned back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other, cybernetic limb. "If you insist..." He finished off his glass and set it on the table. "Curious thing about Drexdidians, they're a peaceful race, for the most part. Agriculturally based, and have no standing armies of any sort. However-" Thace's ear twitched again when another glass was shattered and a punch was thrown. "-they are incredibly strong as warriors if trained properly, and their native fighting style is rather unique, and surprisingly deadly."

    "And if I may ask, how do you know all of this?" The other's voice was equally as calm, despite the growing chaos nearby. (Both had seen their fair share of war and even scrapes with death, it would take much more than a bar brawl to catch their attention.) "Were you ever stationed there?"

    Another nod. "As a matter of fact, only after Operation Blacksite. Their medical technology is rather impressive as well."  

    "It's still a miracle that you survived that explosion," He absently ran his hand over his braid, considering if it was time to cut it off yet or not...  

     Thace chuckled a little bit under his breath and patted his prosthetic leg. "Most of me." 

     Another punch was thrown and the bartender brandished an ice knife defensively.  

    "Alright," Thace stood and straightened his jacket. "Time to go." He knocked his fist against the table lightly and his companion stood as well. 

 

      

 

    "Y'know, I could have handled that..." Kit swatted Thace hand away when he tried to help her clean a gash in her cheek. "I'm used to bar fights... Who are you guys, anyway?" 

     "My name is Commander Thace of-"

    "Great, another recruiter after my ass..." Kit huffed, snatching the napkin he had offered. 

    "-No, we're not affiliated with the Empire, I promise."  

    Kit rolled her eyes, but did not argue. "Fine then. What's his name?" She nodded towards the other man, who was currently occupied with tying up her attackers. 

    "Kolivan. We are agents working with the rebellion in this sector." Thace explained calmly. "And we need to get you out of here, before more come back for you." 

    Kit held the napkin over the gash, a small pout evident in her expression. "I'm leaving this rotting moon anyway. I don't need "resistance help", thanks." She said flatly, locking her gaze on the jukebox in the corner. "Besides, I'm better off on my own." 

 

    + + +   

 

 

    The chatter in the mess hall was rather mild, much to Vex's surprise. She and Laika followed Colin through the tables, occasionally dodging other officers as they did so. She was pleasantly surprised to see that most everyone seemed to be in a relatively good mood. 

    "Hey! Commander!!" Vex's head snapped over to the source of the cry. "Over here!"

    The rest of her team had already commandeered a table of their own and were chatting with the other officers that decided to sit with them. All heads had turned to the trio that was making its way over to them, trays in hand. They all looked like they had managed to get a few hours of rest and had abandoned their armor in favour of jumpsuits (the much more comfortable option, if one were to ask any Agent).  

    Vex took the empty seat next to Gryfin, and Laika beside her. "You all seem to be in a good mood." She grinned, not wasting any time as she began to eat. The past day had taken a lot out of her already.. 

    "Oh yeah," Rikade piped up, shoveling another spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth. "No offense, Captain, but you're all way nicer than we thought you'd be. No one up on Kerberos or Pluto actually knows too much about the Renegades, so we weren't sure what to expect."

    Colin smiled, clearly not taking any offense. "Good to hear that we surpass expectations, Officer."  

    Rikade flashed him a grin. "Anytime, Cap."  

    "So how are you lot fairing here?" Laika plucked a piece of fruit from her tray and popped it in her mouth, face exploding in a smile at the taste. "Were you taken straight to quarters?"

    Johansson nodded. "Yes, Lieutenant, we were." He seemed a bit uneasy, and rightfully so. The sniper had never been on an extended mission to the Inner Ring planets. "And we have already given our sincerest thanks to our hosts." 

     Laika hummed in approval and nibbled on another berry. "That's good. Commander Tomlin already arranged for us to stay another two days, so we can all rest for a while and get our bearings again. I know that we've all been on the move a lot more than usual."

  

 

    "Captain." 

    The voice interrupted the roar of laughter that had long-since erupted at the table at Colin's expense. 

    Colin turns around and looked up at the messenger. "What's up, Jason? Did Romeley ever respond to the communique that I sent about Commander Tomlin's-" 

     "Captain, General MacDowell is requesting the presence of you and the visiting officers Tomlin and Ryner in the Daystom Conference Centre." Colin accepted the memo pad that was being handed to him. "Priority One, sir." 

    Colin pushed his glasses up with his middle finger as he skimmed the information. "Vex, Laika, let's go." He said quickly, standing up and collecting his tray before handing the pad back to Jason. "Follow me." 

    (Suddenly, the air in the space changed sharply, taking on a serious, panicked tone. The remaining Promethium officers shifted uncomfortably, looking to one another to see if anyone withheld answers.)

 

    Vex quickly found out that "Conference Centre" meant "plain room with a large round table holograms" in Renegade Speech. She and Laika followed Colin's quick pace step-for-step, hands kept strictly to their sides and away from the other. Colin pressed his palm to a panel that opened in the wall.     

    "Daystrom Conference Centre security clearance authorization Holt Delta-Nine-Alpha-Seven-Seven-Omega." Colin spoke clearly and with an urgency that Vex did not think possible for the flamboyant captain. Something clicked in the room, likely the computer processing the data. 

    "Security code confirmed. Welcome Captain Holt." 

    A pause.

    "Unauthorized presence detected, Daystrom Conference Centre cannot be accessed."

    Colin huffed. "Senior Officer security override authorization, Holt Vector-Echo-Zero-Zero-Two." He shot an apologetic look at his guests. Sorry for the delay...

    The computer beeped again.

    "Security Code Confirmed. Daystrom Conference Centre will be accessed momentarily."

    Before them, the hologram of a large conference room materialized, displaying an array of generals and colonels "seated" at the round table. Colin shot to attention, back straight and hand raised in a salute. His hand snapped down to his side. "General MacDowell.” 

    "Ah yes, Captain Holt. I see you brought the Prometheans with you. Good. All the of you, have a seat. There is much to discuss." 

    General Maurice MacDowell was a tall, lean man with salt and pepper hair and the shadows of a beard. His grey uniform, a remnant of the extinct Galaxy Garrison, was pressed and crisp, with his gold rope and stripes standing out in stark contrast. Even in the hologram, one could see the soft lines in his face that showed his age. But his presence was not the same as that of the Admirals on Kerberos, it was secure and comforting, not severe and commanding. 

    The trio sat down in the remaining seats at the table, surrounded now by holograms, as General MacDowell continued. 

"Captain, we have received intelligence from Victoria Port and Isla Base that there is a large sweep of Galra low-altitude cruisers crossing the Easter Pacific as we speak. You and your escort team are being ordered back to Winona immediately to raise defenses." He spoke just as clearly and crisply as his uniform was pressed. 

     "Sir," Colin's fingers were steepled in front of his face, glasses reflecting the shimmering blue holograms around them. The laughter, smiles, and copious amounts of gay jokes that had made up Colin's speech and personality had been wiped clean and replaced by everything that made him a commander. "When are they expected to make landfall over Las Vegas Port?" He asked, chewing thoughtfully on the inside of his cheek. 

     "Our reports say seven to ten hours." Colonel Jyptia chimed in from her place next to Maurice. Like the General, Saryn Jyptia was older, but no less graceful or slender than her younger colleagues. Her elfin features were only heightened by the way her accent rolled through her words and how her long grey hair tumbled around her dark face. 

    "And what about the general alerts from the North American Government?" Colin added, drawing in a deep, slow breath. Vex watched him carefully, learning how such matters were dealt with on Earth. "Have they mobilized the civilian armies for a counterattack?"

    Jyptia shook her head. "Not that we are aware, but we do know that the evacuation alert was sent out to Las Vegas Port and Salt Lake City."

    "Good, at least they're evacuating the costal cities..." Colin murmured. "What about Cheyenne? I know that Fort Yellowstone is more than capable of defending itself."

    "Cheyenne has been notified as well." Maurice assured him. "And we have mobilized the entire Rocky Mountain Barricade. Which is why you must return to Winona as soon as possible."

    "And the Prometheans?" Colin asked, glancing at Laika out of the corner of his eye. "If there's an imminent attack from low-altitude fleets, we can't risk launching anything more than the ground hovers." 

    Maurice nodded in agreement, "I concur, Captain. However their battle strategies may come in handy if there is an assault. Keep them close."

    "Understood sir." 

 

+ + +   

  

    A knife gripped tight in one's pocket was one's best friend in the dark city streets at that time of night. 

   The indigenous populations had adapted to the dark of the planet, with glowing eyes, highly developed photoreceptors, and incredible hearing. They were races of predators, descendant of a race Galra that had once colonized the planet, long before the Great War. In the lower districts of their cities, in the bad neighbourhoods, they used these evolutions to their advantage, stealing and murdering those with lesser developed instincts in territory disputes or for goods to sell on the black market.        

    Honerva found them equal parts fascinating and terrifying...

    Her slender hand was wrapped around a sharp, elegant knife that had once been a gift millennia ago, finger resting easily on the blade's spring release. Her own eyes and ears had evolved on their own after ten thousand years on dark Galran cruisers and battleships, and she had likened her appearance to that of a local under her hooded cloak. (She no longer looked like the regal queen of Naxella, but a lone individual with a suspicious aura.) Honerva would occasionally brush her thumb over the intricate patterns caved into the metal alloy, feeling the hum of the object's quintessence trace. 

     Quintessence was in everything; the stars, the air, the hard surface beneath her feet, and in every cell in the body. She had spent Earth-Ages studying it and learning to create, refine, and manipulate it into the most formidable creations in the universe that could possibly be engineering by another living being and not nature itself. Honerva had taught herself to reach out with her own quintessence to sense the ebb and flow of reality. Even blindfolded and placed in a silent room, she was able to see and hear as clear as day. She could reach out across the universe and pluck out the fading and transitioning traces of her husband's grave and the ones who shared his blood. They had a child before they became unnatural renditions of themselves, and another after him who had not survived infancy after. Thinking back, Honerva was not sure what she would have done with a second child in the midst of a war, and she was glad that the little soul rested comfortably with the Ancients and the Gods. 

      An unstable quintessence field intersected with hers as she walked along the alley, and she dared to cast her gaze off to the right and downwards at its source. The frown carved into her currently-maroon face deepened, cutting lines into her aged skin as the creature looked up at her with hungry, vicious eyes. 

    She hated the quintessence of rabid animals. It simply left a bad taste in her mouth, and she continued to walk past it, ignoring the sounds of chains being pulled against one another. The creature was not worth her effort.

 

     It was some time before she came even remotely close to her destination, and she cursed herself for not bringing a better map or hitching a ride on a shuttle that stopped at a closer port. Bar moons were certainly unsavory places, and she did have a certain loathing for the foul air and "skanky" environment. Honerva never trusted these places, save for when it was absolutely necessary or when she had a desire to blow off whatever steam she had building up in an unprofessional manner. The neon lights of the surrounding clubs and other establishments offered the only light that would cut through the smog that hung in the air like a heavy cloud, cutting through even the mask that covered the lower half of her face. 

    It took her a moment to remember what circumstances had even brought her to Lumis 4.

     Ah. Yes. That... She thought to herself, entering a rather crowded and shady bar. That Star-cursed page alerted me of a situation that needed my attention. An ambassador's run-in with a bounty-hunter, was it? Honerva looked at the name and coordinates on her little wrist-holo, checking the image that appeared next to it before looking through the bar's patrons. She lowered the deep grey hood and let her façade show. She was not an Altean woman on this moon; she was a Rhyrrhies peddler with maroon skin and glowing white eyes. She found her target in a matter of minutes and made her way to him. 

     In all honesty, he stuck out like a sore thumb in that getup. Too polished and formal for such an establishment (Honerva swore it was made mostly of the foulest scum in the system). And the practically neon pink hair didn't help his case...

     Humans are peculiar beings... Honerva mused, taking her time to get to the Martian ambassador. She didn't want to deal with him, and would have much rather sent Mirok to...collect him. 

     Humans... 

   "Doctor Andrata."

    The human man looked up at her, clearly drunken and incoherent. "Ey, who's you?" He slurred, raising the tip of his knife to her throat. A small growl echoed in Honerva's chest as she pushed the blade aside. 

    "My employer sent me to collect you, doctor." She said dryly, pitching her voice down to blend with the local dialect's accent.

    "An' who's yer employer, eh, lady?" He raised the blade again, only for Honerva to push it aside again. 

     "I think you know, Doctor." She hissed. The chatter around them in the bar almost tuned out her own speech, and the sheer volume was enough to drive her up the grimy walls. "Now I need you to come with me...right now." Honerva was seconds from reaching out and grabbing him by the collar of his breastplate and forcibly dragging him out of the bar. It took an incredible amount of self restraint not to.

    "Eyy a'right, lady..." He huffed a great, long sigh as he sheathed the knife. "Lemme just say g'bye t'me-"

    "Now." 

    Andrata's eyes widened a little and he held his gloved hands up in surrender. "Ehhy, I'm c'ming, I'm c'min..." He stumbled out of the booth seat and nearly fell on his face. Honerva had to step to the side to avoid becoming his support post. Nevertheless, the shorter woman curled her fingers around his upper arm and gave it a good tug, beginning to pull him in the appropriate direction. Once outside, Honerva let out a long and exasperated sigh as the Human doctor fell to his knees and retched. 

      Humans and their intolerances... Honerva mused, trying desperately to divert her attention. Briefly, she contemplated the consequences of simply leaving the pitiful excuse for a mortal where he was and pretending that he had not been on the moon. The idea was quickly dismissed when she recalled the reasons why he was even a member of the Alliance. 

     Still, she loathed humans and their fickle ways...

    "Aye, lassie a'yone e'er tell ya that yer as pretty as-"

    "Shut up." 

    Andrata did as he was told, now pointedly keeping his mouth shut as he rose to his feet shakily. Honerva pressed her lips into a thin line and prayed to the Ancients for all the strength they could spare. 

     Intolerable, insolent, vile, irresponsible....

    "Now, stay quiet and come with-" Honerva was cut off as her ears flicked, detecting the very faint sound of several sets of approaching footsteps. "-me..." Her posture deflated. Could this whole...excursion actually get any worse?

      The threats and requests were spoken in a language that Honerva was unfamiliar with, but whatever was going on, there were enough to outnumber her and Andrata, and they all sounded angry. She flicked her knife open, holding it across her chest defensively. 

    "Ey Lassie, ya wanna take the ones on the left..." (Well, he sobered up quickly.) 

    "...and you take the ones on the right? Yes. That's agreeable." She assessed the situation. Five were within reach of her, and there were easily another four within Andrata's reach. They were outnumbered, but trained to handle such odds... Honerva could only feel ill will and intent in their quintessence. (Corruption, she thought bitterly. A bit too much for the natural body to handle...) 

     The local to Honerva's left sprang at her as one attacked Andrata, and her knife found his jugular within seconds. What was it that her late husband had taught her once? 

 

     "Keep your arms close, my dear." He purred softly in her ear, hunched over her as he positioned her hands on the sword. "Protect your vital organs as much as possible, and give no opportunity for your enemy to strike you..." 

     "Like this?" She waited for him to step back before defending herself from the Gladiator's strike (It had been specially reprogrammed for Galran battle techniques). Her husband shook his head. 

    "Close. But when you stepped back to block the strike, you raised your loose hand," Zarkon chided gently. "Stand parallel to your enemy, and hold your loose arm around your torso. It makes you a smaller target, harder to hit at high speeds."

     Honerva nodded, adjusting her ponytail before continuing. This time, when the Gladiator attacked her, she did as he had said, now able to parry the blade and knock it away from her body.

    "Good!" He praised, smiling proudly. "Just like that." Honerva matched his smile, eager to learn more. Zarkon tucked a stray bit out hair out of her eyes, letting his touch linger on her cheek a little longer than "proper". "In time, you will be a strong warrior, with a prowess equal to an empress, Honerva..." His voice was softer now, loving. "And...if you would do me the honour, I would take you as mine..." 

 

    He had proposed to her that day, Honerva recalled as her knife penetrated the chest of her fourth assailant. Everything he had ever taught her had been locked in a corner of her memory, and as she dropped to her knees and kicked her enemy's legs out from under him whilst simultaneously dodging another strike. Both were killed by her hand almost instantly, and blood dripped down her fingertips. She half almost missed the feeling of the warm, thick liquid on her hands... 

    Then she remembered, the liquid soaking through to her skin...

     "Ey, Lass, e'erything good back there?" The unmistakable sound of a sword filleting flesh caught her ears. Another enemy slain. 

     "It's....been a while." Honerva admitted, finally killing the fifth. "And I was hoping that I could do this without a mess, but..." She cleaned the thick blue blood off on her pant leg before folding the knife back up and tucking it in her pocket. "...one has to do what one has to do..." 

    ...blood is not warm.

 

    

+ + +

 

 

    "Drexel Pax? That's kind of an obscure place to hide from the Empire, don't you think?" Kolivan remarked, peaking over Kit's shoulder at the course she had plotted out. 

    "Yep." Kit nodded and flicked the autopilot on before brushing past him into the cargo hold. "It's my homeworld, and if you were on the run, where's the last place you'd go?"

   "Home." Thace chimed in. "Keep who ever's chasing you away from your family."

   "Bingo. So if I go the last place they expect, then they'll look everywhere but." Kit let out a long sigh as she plopped down onto an empty crate and shrugged.

    Kolivan leaned up against the hull near where his friend sat cross-legged on the ground. "Something tells me there's more to it than that..." He lived long enough to be able to read a person like an open holo-book. No matter how closed off she thought she was, Kit could not escape his deductions.

    Another heavy sigh and Kit curled her legs to her chest. "I've been avoiding it, I admit...but it feels like there's this...I dunno how to put it. Energy, I guess, that's been pulling me back. Kinda like a wanderlust, but with a set destination in mind. It's weird..." She chewed on her lips and rested her chin on her knees. "I keep having these dreams? I think that's what they are..."

    "About what?" Thace asked, raising a brow. Like Kolivan, he was old enough to know that there were forces at work that no one (not even Zarkon's witch, mind you) could fully understand.  

    "I don't know, honestly. It's..." She groaned in frustration, tugging at her short hair. "...strange. Like a feeling, not a picture."

    The Blade agents exchanged a knowing look. They knew... 

    A shrill beeping echoed from the cockpit, successfully stealing Kit's attention away from her own thoughts. She hopped down from the crate and walked to the cockpit. "We're to the Drexalain Space Line. ETA to planet, ten doboshes, max." She slid into the pilot's chair as the Blades stood behind her, bracing their stances. "Might wanna hold on to something, gentlemen..." Kit had never liked being a pilot (she much preferred to keep both feet on solid ground) but at least she knew she was largely in control of her own life and fate when she herself was at the helm. "...If I remember correctly, reentry in a cargo shuttle like this is a bit rough..."

    "I suppose that explains why everything is tied down like a-"  

    "-Commander," Kolivan cut his friend off. "That'll be enough of that." There was a small smile on his face when the other man rolled his eyes. Kit scoffed. 

    "I second the old man." She shook her head. "No dirty jokes aboard my vessel."   

    "Aye aye, Captain." 

 

 

     Kit's home was in one of the dune villages in the planet's Southern Hemisphere, where the solar energy was highest most of the year. Almost undisturbed, her house was sturdily built, and the inside was cool and comforting -a stark contrast to the harsh elements on the other side of the thick walls. A few pieces of furniture were placed around the main room in the house (many Galra would have automatically called it a "lounge", if the kitchen were not attached so directly) and there were doors around the room that lead to washrooms and bedrooms. 

     "Be it ever so humble...I guess..." A small sigh. "I've only got one spare room, but the sofa's pretty comfortable..." Kit explained, a bit self-conscious. 

     Kolivan rested his hand on her shoulder. "It's fine, Miss Braxer. Your hospitality is much appreciated." He smiled at her, offering a bit of reassurance. 

    "Kolivan? Come look at this..." 

    Kit looked over her shoulder at Thace, who stood in front of her bookshelf, holding an all-too familiar book in his large hands. Kolivan went to him, as requested. "What is it?" 

    The conversation that followed fell on deaf ears, as Kit could not understand the language they spoke. However, it seemed to trigger certain emotions in both men that she found intriguing. Clearly, they had found something in her collection that had passed through her notice for decaphoebes. After a long moment of hushed chatter in High Galran (she assumed), Thace closed the book, tucked it under his arm, and held up a map. 

     It was not an old map, by what Kit could see, but old enough that it was still made of aelydaas, a paper that had not been used for over a century and a half since the trees that were used to make it went extinct. 

    "What is that?" Upon closer examination, Kit noticed that she had never even seen the book that Thace held. "I've never seen it before, but...somehow..." Kit reached for the map, snatching it -carefully- from his hands. "...I feel like I know what is it..." she stared at it intensely, eyes scouring every fiber of the paper. 

 

 

 

"I've been scanning the system...alien radio chatter...Voltron..." 

"...a symbol of freedom...hope..."

"This isn't a participation game....war....all you an do is get up and try to make it right..."

"It doesn't matter where we come from...”

A great white light flashed, and the clang of metal-on-metal resounded and echoed as if from within a bell. It was a great and powerful sound... 

"...we will return...Triumphant..."

Another bright explosion of pinks and blues, and a strong wind encompassed her entire being. The noise of weapons discharging and soldiers fighting reached her ears, mingling with the metallic clashes.

Then, like a balm to the deafening echoes, came a soft voice...

"This is our only chance to save all of existence..."

 

 

   It was hours before Kit woke again, and she found herself in her own bed with a slightly damp cloth on her forehead. She could see no light through the window, and knew that her clock would be painfully behind in telling her an accurate time. 

   Voltron...

    Her head ached...

    Kit heard the subtle scuffle of people in the house, and it took her a moment to remember that she had guests that would be staying indefinitely. How long had she been unconscious?

    Moving slowly, so as not to aggravate her head, Kit sat upright and set the cloth aside. A steaming mug of tea -locuitush flower, if her nose was accurate- sat on the bed table, and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Her guests were certainly kind-hearted. 

     And knowledgeable on Dexdidian health and medicine, She noted to herself as she sipped the tea. Relief washed over her. Not many people know how powerful a "weed" like locuitush flower is... By the time she had finished the tea, her headache was non-existent and she was able to stand. 

    "Ah, Kit. Good to see you up and moving again!"

     Had they actually taken it upon themselves to cook dinner...?

     It smelled edible, at least...

     Kit offered a small smile as she entered the main part of the house and picked up the map. 

    "We will return..."

     Kolivan set aside the dish he was washing to dry and looked over his shoulder at her. "Are you feeling better, Kit? Did the tea help?"

     "It doesn't matter where we come from..."

    Kit tore her attention from the map, thankful that the voices left her as well. "Yes it did. Thank you, Kolivan." 

     The older Blade smiled kindly, drying his hands on a towel. They both looked comically large in her home -designed and built for the slightly smaller stature of the Drexdidians- but they seemed to be making it work well. "You're welcome, but please, just focus on recovering. What was it that you saw?" He asked, turning to her. 

    Kit sat in one of the large, overstuffed "sacs" that resembled an Earth bean-bag chair with a long sigh. "It was...strange. I heard voices, all of them different. They sounded..." She paused, making small gestures with her hands as she searched for the correct word in the common tongue. "Krael-ta. Triumphant, determined..." Kit pulled her legs up to her chest, hugging them close as she sank further back into the plush furniture. "Not fearful." She concluded. 

     "What do you mean?" Thace sat across from her on the sofa. "What did they say?"

      "Just...lines? I suppose? I'm not sure what they meant, but it was crystal clear. All of it..." Kit chewed thoughtfully on the inside of her cheeks, fin-like ears twitching in concentration. "They repeated one of the words a couple of times...I think it was a name, but I've never heard of it." 

    Thace leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees as Kolivan loomed behind him, looking equally as curious. His voice was kind when he spoke, like a father trying to coax answers out of his upset child, "What was the name, Kit?" 

    "Voltron?" Kit said as more of a question than a statement. "I think that's what it was...What is it? This voltron thing?"

     The Blades exchanged a glance, as if somehow communicating without words. 

     Like they knew...

     Kolivan sighed, chest rising and falling with great force, crossing his arms almost uncomfortably. His companion's face scrunched in thought, as if wondering how to break some sort of horrible news to an individual. "That...is a very long story, Kit... very long."

   Kit looked at them curiously. "I have time."

  

+ + +

 

     The noise buzzed endlessly in loops, echoing in the stone halls and seeking to deafen them. Agents and non-military personnel scrambled in organized and practiced manners to collect whatever they could and had to take on the transports.

}Warning. This is the Emergency Broadcast System. Evacuation protocols are now in affect. This is not a drill. Warning. This is the Emergency Broadcast System...{

    It repeated like a mantra in their ears, reminding them of the potential horrors that would befall them soon, should they not hasten their actions. Colin led them through the outpost's tunneling halls, weaving through the throngs of people and to find the rest of the Prometheans that they housed. Simultaneously, he bickered back and forth with the base CO, a rather large, burly alien woman with great fluffy ears that stuck out on either side of her head. Half was missing fur and covered in burn scars -she had clearly seen long days of battle.

    "-not even Jyptia was expecting them to hit landfall so soon!" Colin's speech was sharp and serious, and the draw of his brow was a clear sign of stress and worry. 

     "Someone had to have tipped them off about this base!" The major huffed, hands balled into tight fists at her sides. She must have a temper, Vex thought, and a nasty one, at that. "We've gone undetected for over six decades, and now a sweep brigade fins us?" She shot a look over her shoulder and down at Vex, who barely stood as high as her bicep, if that. 

      "I know, I know, but one outpost isn't what concerns High Command right now." Colin shot back, "Those Promeatheans have something up their sleeves, and Jyptia and MacDowell seem to be in on it. Their priority is relocating this outpost's personnel to Winona and defending the Rocky Mountain blockade."

      The major let a small, annoyed snarl rumble in her throat for a moment, and it carried into her speech, "Keep the inland safe until the Governments respond with RAs." 

     "Bingo." The word was not spoken with a light heart, as it normally would be. But rather in a bitter, distressed tone that made Vex's spine chill. 

     "What happens if the blockade fails?" Laika piped up, quickly wishing she hadn't. The major turned to her now, eyes narrowed and brows drawn darkly. 

     "If the blockade fails," She began harshly, as if she thought Laika should already know this and was irritated by having to repeat the information. "then so does the continent. We already lost the Allegheny Barricade, and when that happened, we lost the entire Eastern Ohio coastline to the Galra."

     "Easy Zethrid," Colin chided, raising a judgemental brow. "They don't tell them a lot about us up on Kerberos. Let them ask as many questions as they have to so they can help."

     The woman he called "Zethrid" snarled in the back of her throat again, but did not snap at him like Vex expected. 

     "...Fine." She ultimately surrendered. "Commander Tomlin and Lieutenant Ryner, right?"

     The pair in question nodded. "Yes ma'am."

     "Right, so as soon as we find the rest of your crew, I'll oversee the defenses while the Escadrilles launch and get the rest of you the hell out of here." Zethrid said sternly. 

}...this is not a drill. Warning. This is the Emergency Broadcast System. Evacuation protocols are now in effect. This is not a drill...{

     "Yes ma'am," Colin nodded curtly. 

 

 

 

     The attack came sooner than expected, and by the time all personnel were clear, the attacking sweep cruiser had blown it to kingdom come and were in pursuit of the fleeing Renegade aircraft. Nimble fighters descendent of the MFE-class fighters of the Galaxy Garrison escorted and protected the fleet, even as they broke formation in hopes of confusing the drones that chased them down. Vex, Gryfin, and Rikade had been allowed to pilot fighters in an attempt to diminish the Galra's forces. 

     "Keep your eyes open and moving, these things are a lot different that the Galaxy-Class fighters we fly at home," Vex reminded her colleagues over their coms. 

     "Rodger that, Commander."

     "Aye Sir!" 

     Vex pushed the throttle up as the tail alert flicked on and the drone fired at her. 

      "Commander, there's three on your seven, I can take them out!"

     "I've got it, Jynx!" She twisted the controls again, rolling out of the way of another blast of plasma. "Make sure your transport is covered!"

      "If you insist, Commander."

      "I do, so get your ass moving!" She narrowly dodged another attack and dropped her altitude. "Renegade Escadrille Dalteria, this is Grey Leader! Colin, I don't know how much longer we can stand against these things!" 

     "Grey Leader, this is Escadrille Daltera," Colin's voice crackled over the coms. "I know Vex, but we don't have a choice. We have to clear the Blockade before we can even think about lowering defenses." There was a startled yelp on his end, and Vex caught sight of the larger transport craft narrowly dodging a series of hits. "We need to figure out where these damn drones are coming from!"

   “Commander! Galran cruiser, ten-o' standard!" Rikade panicked. "They launched another wave!" 

    Vex thought of a few very choice words for the offending craft. "I see it! Dalteria, we need to divert as many fighters to that cruiser as we can spare! If we take it down, we can end this a whole lot sooner!" 

    "Understood, Vex." Colin seemed to have calmed a little, but she knew everyone of them was tensed into tightly wound coils at the moment. He gave the order, and over a dozen fighters veered off towards the cruiser. 

    Vex didn't look back. 

    "Take out their Ion cannon!" A renegade pilot shouted, "That will cut their defenses drastically!" 

    A chorus of "Aye" "Rodger" and other such agreements rang in the her ears as she changed course to the weapon. 

    "Okay, we're gonna take it from all sides," Vex began, keeping her distance for a while. "Take them by surprise and maximize our fire coverage." 

    "On it, Commander!"

    They broke formation and took positions, holding at a distance until Vex gave the order to fire. 

    She counted to five and inhaled, thumb hovering over the trigger. 

    "Now!"

 

 

 

    

    Zethrid was relieved beyond words that the vast majority of them managed to arrive safely to Winona, having lost only three fighters in the attempts to incapacitate the Galran cruiser (which was -surprisingly- successful). They were welcomed by underlaying tones of panic, as would be evident throughout the Blockade with the rapidly approaching threat that loomed over them. 

    "Major!"

    The shrill voice was odd in Vex and Laika's ears, but welcome to the woman it called. From quite literally nowhere, another uniformed Renegade appeared in mid-run, making a beeline for the commanding officer of the now-destroyed outpost. She squealed in delight as she tackled the large woman, easily wrapping her entire body around her. Zethrid held her close, and Vex swore the sound she made was about as close to a loving laugh as her gravelly voice could manage. The smaller woman was predominantly orange, with multicoloured stripes on her face and the appendage that extended off her head. From what Vex had seen of her, she was a rather "cute" woman, who clearly loved the Major dearly.

    "We got the alert an hour ago that the outpost as destroyed..." 

    Was she...crying?

    "...we thought the worst here..." 

    Colin chuckled a little and came up to Vex. "That's Ezor, one of our Second Lieutenants. They've been together for a couple hundred years now..." He explained. "It broke Jyptia's heart to split them up when Jagger Outpost was established, but Ezor was needed here..."

    Zethrid held her close, face somehow tucked against Ezor's thin neck.  

    "They get to see each other about every six or eight months for a couple days, but the last thirty years have been hard on them..."

    Vex watched them as inconspicuously as possible, absently reaching for and holding Laika's hand. It was a good feeling, not to be the only "obscure" couple on base...

    "I'd actually be willing to bet that Zethrid's happier now that the outpost has been obliterated," Colin remarked, sighing a little. "But for right now, we have to keep moving and get our asses up to Fort Yellowstone or we're gonna be fish in a barrel here..."

    Vex heaved a long, deep sigh, pulling air from the ratchets depths of her lungs. "Right. Where do you need my crew and I?

    "Right now," Colin's soft nature was gone again, and the man was all business. "I need you and Laika with me and Major O'Toule, wherever the hell she is. Your officers will remain with the whoever they are assigned to. Lieutenant, you especially. Romelle's our librarian, and I think she'll be trying to preserve some data that will be very helpful to you." 

    Laika nodded. "Most likely. Everything I got from the exchange has already been a huge help to me. I was almost able to run the full patterning diagnostic on the last three blast samples. If possible, I'd like to-"

    "Our priority is to get out of here and to safety. From there, we'll have means to get you into a proper lab, or better yet, off this godforsaken planet." Colin's brows knitted together in a serious expression. "Right now, we're on the clock. Now c'mon, we have to get to the archives."

   

    + + +

  

    Romelle had had it up to her ears with the Galra by this point in her life, and the recent hours were absolutely no exception. 

     "We have to treat this like a medical triage." She stated sternly, scurrying around the archives with Casey, Aaron, and two of her assistants in tow. "Whatever is most valuable is to be transferred first to secure drives and transported to Fort Yellowstone." She ordered, receiving a chorus of nods in return. 

    "Major, what about the restricted drives?" Cindy -the more annoying of her assistants- asked. She really loathed the girl's squeaky voice.  

     "I'll handle those personally." She said stiffly. "So don't even bother with them." 

     "Romelle!" 

     Her ears twitched in annoyance. Wonderful...another Holt...

     "Romelle, this is Commander Tomlin and Lieutenant Ryner, from Prometheus." He was a little out of breath, having run the entire way there. "They're going to help you with information preservation and whatnot. They need to make sure everything gets to the Fort undamaged so they can take copies of the chemical and bioengineering files to their base on Kerberos."

     Romelle took a second to process the information before nodding. "Understood, but they'll have to hurry and come with me if we want to get everything out in time." 

    Vex nodded sharply. "You got it, Major. We'll do whatever we can to help you."

 

 

+ + + 

 

  

    "...so that's what drug me out here?" Kit asked, knees curled up to her chest yet again. "This....quintessence stuff that hooks me up to a giant robot lion?" 

     Kolivan nodded. "That's...one way to put it, yes." 

      They had eaten a good, filling dinner and were finally at rest of the day. It would not be long before they finalized sleeping arrangements and would retire for the night. 

     "Okay, because now I want to check it out even more now." There was a slight glint in her eyes and her ears were flicking more than normal if she was entirely calm. The tails they told her of the great defender had struck a cord of awe in her, awakening a feeling that she thought to be long-since lost. 

   Adventure.

  Another look was exchanged between the Blades and this time, Thace spoke. His voice was calm and had an agreeing lilt, "I don't see what harm could come from that. But tomorrow. It's much too late now, and I think we could all" -he punctuated this with a sharp look at his companion- "benefit from a good night's sleep."

 

 

 

 

 

    As promised, and after a hearty breakfast (Kit had commandeered her kitchen this time, insisting that it was improper for guests to do the cooking) they put together day packs -should they be out longer than planned, and simply out of habit for the Blades- and took the SandSkimmer in Kit's garage. Kolivan attempted to call her out when she stated that she would pilot, recalling her dislike of flight. He was sharply reminded that "skimmers were acceptable, deep-space in a rust bucket was not". His companion chuckled at this, but made no remarks.  

    It was when she closed her eyes near a cliff that they both protested vocally.  

    "Shut up and trust me!"

    Thace was sure that she had muttered something about them being "big babies", but he was too busy clinging to whatever he could for dear life as she put the skimmer into a nosedive. 

     Was it a scream of terror or a great cheer of excitement that she heard?

     Kit pulled the craft up out of the dive at the last possible second, laughing wildly. 

     Her passengers protested again, now lecturing her simultaneously on safety and actually paying attention to her surroundings. 

     She did a good job of pretending to listen without actually paying them any attention. 

 

 

    They stopped for a bit of a rest when Kit needed to get her bearings again, and had a small bite to eat, taking refuge from the hot suns in a nearby cave. A small lizard with two tails and one eye took fondly to Kolivan, and when they set off again, no one was any the wiser that he had tucked the little creature safely on his shoulder. It reminded him a little bit of the chipper Altean mice that the Paladins had once had aboard their Castle of Lions. 

     By the time the energy trail Kit was following came to an impasse, she hid the skimmer in the cave and looked around in awe. 

     "Our archeologists could never explain the sudden appearance of these carvings..." She said in a small, wonder filled voice. "We have been an isolated people, and even the Galra deemed the planet unfit for colonization eons ago... But I know this. These images..." Kit's scaly palm brushed against the wall, and almost instantly she recoiled. A great burst of bright yellow light sprang from her palm and fanned out across the stone walls of the cave, illuminating the carvings. The Blades threw each other knowing looks. It would be a great honour to be with a new Paladin only first discovering her lion...

     "D-did I do that?" Kit stuttered, eyes wide at the far end of the wall as it crumbled. A cloud of dust blew past them, and Kit coughed. 

    "Yes..." Thace grinned widely, resting a hand on her shoulder. "You did." 

    She trembled a little, unsure of how to properly proceed. "I uh...I guess we go...that..way..?" 

     A nod. 

     "Oh stars..." 

 

    Any fear she had was washed away at the proud sight before her. Encased in a bright yellow orb sat a great, tall lion. It's eyes seemed to follow her as she moved about within the cave, and she heard a deep purr in her ears.  

    "Do you hear that...?" She asked, reaching out to the orb encasing the ship. 

    The Blades stood back and watched, smiling just a little.  

 

"I've been scanning the system...alien radio chatter...Voltron..."

"...a symbol of freedom...hope..."

"This isn't a participation game....war....all you an do is get up and try to make it right..."

"It doesn't matter where we come from..."

 "...we will return...Triumphant..."

 "This is our only chance to save all of existence..."

 

    This...this beast was only one part, but the image of the heroic mech was burned into her mind.  

    This was a lion of Voltron.

     Kit reached out and hesitantly pressed her palm to the orb, recoiling in shock as it melted away before her own eyes. "Stars..." She breathed softly, inhaling as she stepped over the yellow line that had once been the boarder between the lion and the outside world. The Blades followed at a distance once the lion lowered its head. "I...I guess this is the entrance...?" She looked back at them, hoping for an answer.

    Neither had the heart to tell her that they had never ridden in one of the lions. 

    When she did not receive more than an indifferent shrug, Kit set her jaw and marched up the ramp, following the little voices (that weren't really voices) that told here where to go. 

    Kit asked her question more to herself than anything, "Why would it lead me to the cockpit, of all places...?" Regardless, the Blades now blocked her exist. She had no choice but to sit down. Almost as soon as she did so, the Lion roared to life, screens and consoles flashing on and reading off diagnostics and data that she could not understand. It felt like the lion shifted to accommodate her slight stature, but surely that was just her imagination, right? A moment later, the text translated itself to Drexdidian Standard. "Well then." She sighed, eyes wide and ears flicking excitedly. "I found you, what do you want me to do n-" The lion crouched low -not by her command- and shot upward through the rock, throwing its passengers back against the door with strangled yelps.  

     Kit screeched in surprise, reaching out and clinging to the controls for dear life. She tried willing the beast to stop, jerking the controls, whatever popped into her mind, but it did no good. "Are there instruction manuals for these?!" She called behind her, too scared to let go of the controls. 

     "No."

     "What?!"

 

  

+ + +

 

  

    "You heard what I said! Dive!" Vex shouted over her coms. "I'm not abandoning that transport!" 

    They had been found by another cruiser and ambushed. Perhaps being fish in a well-armed barrel was a better alternative...

    "Commander! I'm scrambling their signals," Colin butted into the conversation, "it should give us enough time to get the hell out of here and to Midori Outpost!" 

    Vex hissed as she was knocked to the side by an approaching drone. "Make it fast, Holt!"

     "Already halfway there! I just need another tick!"

     "Aja, puta! What the fuck is a tick?"

     Vex had quite forgotten about their civilian pilot, but even she had to admit; what the hell was a tick?

    "About a second and a half!"

    Ah. That made sense. 

 

 

 

     Cassidy was not used to the MFE-class fighters, but he at least knew the basics. He'd studied enough Galaxy Garrison history to know where everything was, and that they were the most sensitive controls ever to exist on Earth. They were not in any sensible formation, but it was enough for him to be able to tell where to go. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but this was not really how he wanted to get his start. He would have much rather gone to the RA academy and flown for the Army, not in a dogfight against the aliens that had likely killed his family by now. 

    "Captain Holt! Ten o'clock high!" He spotted the fighter just in time for Colin to be able to doge the hits.

    "When the hell is that scrambler gonna be done?!" He knew the voice belonged to a Promethean, he just couldn't recall which one. 

     "It is!"

    Cassidy tried to count his breaths and measure them calmly. 

    "Cap'in, we need t’divert or we're gonna be getting' fitted fer wooden onesies!" It was Aaron and their absolutely ridiculous accent. Casey still had no idea where they'd picked it up. Maybe it was a Luna thing?

     "Negative! We need to get to Midori!" Colin vetoed the suggestion almost instantly. 

     "Agreed!" Which one of the Prometheans was it? The Alien one? "Captain, this is gonna sound weird, but I feel like that's exactly where we're supposed to go!"

     "Lieutenant Ryner, I don't care if it's your left sock that's talking to you," The fighter above Colin's transport knocked another drone out of the sky. "that's exactly where we're going!"

 

  

+ + + 

 

  

    Kit finally managed to get a grip on herself once they had left the outer atmosphere. 

     "Do you know where it's taking us?" Kolivan asked from beside her. She jumped a little, having entirely forgotten that the Blades were with her. 

     "No, no, absolutely no idea." Kit didn't let go of the controls. Part of her was scared to. "It's like it's on autopilot or something."

    "Can you pull up a star chart?" Thace was bent at the hips on her other side. 

    Kit gave him a deadpan look. "Sir, I have absolutely no idea what the hell just happened or where anything is on here."

    They both stood to their full heights, and Kolivan raised a brow at his friend. "Altea?"

    "Most likely." 

     Kit looked up at them. "What's an Altea?" She asked. Every time she seemed to ask a question, the answer prompted ten more. 

     It was strange to think, but Kit could almost feel the hum of the mechanics around her like a pulse or a breath...

     Thace's mouth curled into a knowing, comforted smile. "The home of Voltron..."

 

  

     Kit had not been even remotely satisfied by the answer, but a strong rumble of calming energy coursed though the mechanical lion, making her shiver a little. Her worry melted, and she focused on trying to locate the epicenter of the sensation. It seemed to be everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.

     Another pulse of energy and a swirling mass ringed in glowing sigils and stars opened in front of them. 

     "What in the name of-!" Kit was cut off as her lion lurched forward, sending them into the mass. Her passengers stumbled and used her chair for balance as they shot through the other side of the mass. 

   "Okay, what in the name of Yre'tal was that?" Kit looked behind her, as if to try and see the mass. Her eyes were wide, and her ears were pinned back against her head as if threatened. 

     "Wormhole," Thace's smile widened ever-so-slightly. "We're here..." 

 

 

     And indeed they were. Before them was a shining blue and green planet, ringed with ExoCities and ports. Shuttles and transports came and went freely, like moths around a light. Yes, the system's sun was bright, but Altea seemed to glow in teals and blues brighter than any star Kit had ever seen. 

     "This....this is Altea..?" She breathed, eyes gleaming with the light reflecting off the planet. 

     Kolivan nodded. "Yes it is," He confirmed. "Now, if the Lion is still guiding you, let it...it will lead you home."

 

 

+ + + 

 

  

    Chancellor Thalor's long strides echoed down the lofting halls of the castle, his advisor following as close behind as he could. 

     "...but Sir! We should be wary of our boarders," Emry fussed, clutching a holopad to his chest. His brown hair was tied back in a short ponytail, but his fringe-like bangs flopped in his bright cyan eyes. "We cannot simply allow-"

 "-a lion of Voltron to return to it's home?" Thalor looked over his green-clad shoulder at him, a slightly boyish grin gracing his soft features. 

    Emry said nothing, only pursed his lips into a bit of a pout. 

    The Chancellor chuckled lightly. "My dearest Advisor, you always worry far too much for someone so young." His lips pulled into a gentle smile and he clapped his hand on Emry's shoulder, scooting him up to walk beside him. "But now, the Lions have begun to come home, after nearly three-hundred long deca-phoebes. And I intend to welcome them home with open arms."

     Emry inhaled sharply and opened his mouth to respond, but Thalor placed his finger in front of his lips. 

     The pout returned.

    "But, Emry, if it soothes your tender nerves, I shall bring a my guards along for a bit of security," Thalor removed his arm from around Emry's shoulders and clasped his hands behind his back. 

     There was a small spell of silence, during which Emry analyzed the curve and edge of Thalor's face and jaw. He was a handsome, proud man, of that there was no doubt. Thalor bore a striking resemblance to the late King Alfor, but in his own way entirely unique. For instance, his jawline -while still sharp- had a smooth edge about the corner, leading gently into his pierced ears (which -cominally- stuck out a bit farther on the sides of his head than most did). He wore greens, blues, and silvers, as per his terms' colours, and the traditional style suited his broad frame neatly. Thalor stood tall and proud, with a half-cocked smile on his sun-kissed face. Emry was a little sad when Thalor's charming smile fell to a concerned frown. 

    "Emry? Is that alright?" Thalor's lilac brows drew together in concern, and the hand returned to Emry's shoulder. 

    The man snapped out of his daze. "Oh, no. Apologies Chancellor, I-"

    "Now now, Emry..." He chided, voice friendly and light. No different than usual, Emry remarked, he's worthy of being a Sage, if not for his abhorrent alchemical skills... "...We've talked about this. I have a name, and it is not "Chancellor". Now, will my personal guard be enough, or would you prefer a security detail for my safety?"

     The blasted smile was back...

    "The personal guard will be fine, Chance- Thalor." Emry squeaked out, chewing on the inside of his cheek nervously.

    Thalor nodded with an affirming hum, reaching up to adjust the tie in his white hair. As they passed the guards in question, a simple nod in Emry's direction told them to follow, and with the four bodyguards in tow, Thalor and Emry made their way out to the front courtyard where the Yellow Lion was landing. The bit of wind from the thrusters blew their hair a little, and Emry took the chance to peak over at the Chancellor beside him. There was a glint in Thalor's mismatched eyes; excitement, mischief... Emry knew him well. 

     A smile pulled at the corners of his lips. "A dream come true, yes my friend?"

     "You have no idea, Emry..." Thalor's voice was light and whimsical, as if lost in a daydream. The great beast roared, lowered itself, and opened its jaw. "...you have no idea..."

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    "So...they're not gonna like, fire on me, yeah?" Kit asked, hesitating near the hatch. "Like, they're not a hostile race, yeah?" 

    Kolivan shook his head. "You will have no issue here, I assure you." He rested his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. "Go...They will be patient with you." 

    Kit nodded hesitantly and scooted out the hatch and down the ramp. She heard voices, and leveled her breathing as best as she could. Just stay calm, Kit, just...stay....calm. 

    "Paladin!" The voice carried like a laugh on the breeze, elated, cheerful, and welcoming. The accent was graceful and sophisticated, and Kit understood that she was dealing with some sort of nobility. "What a welcome sight you are to this world!" 

    The owner of the voice came into view and Kit had to shield her eyes from the bright light of the sun. It felt wonderful against her, unlike the burning heat of the suns of Drexel Pax. She inhaled deeply. Perhaps there was something in the air that calmed her and set her at ease. 

     "Paladin?" Kit asked hesitantly, quirking a brow in question. "I'm...I mean, I was just a bartender on Freyal 2...I know I'm a decent pilot, but...I don't understand..." 

    The taller of the primly dressed men stepped forward. "Then we shall start simple. Your name, then?" 

    He was friendly, at least. No one seemed to carry a weapon...

    "K-Kit?" Her speech stuttered and came out as more of a question. "Kit Braxer."

    "And you're Drexdidian?" The white-haired Chancellor made a small gesture, signaling her to correct him if needed. 

    Kit nodded.

     "So then would it be Serke Braxer or Serle Braxer?" 

    At least he knew his customs...

    "Kit is just fine, Sir." Kit laced her fingers together in front of her, suddenly very self-conscious of her dirty, dusty traveling clothes. Altea was so...pristine. 

     She felt entirely inferior and underdressed. 

    The chancellor nodded. "Paladin Kit it is then!" He grinned widely, almost resembling a child at a carnival. "My name is Chancellor Thalor, and this is my advisor, Emry Dhadathon." Chancellor Thalor made a sweeping motion towards the dark-skinned man beside him. Both looked young, perhaps no older than Kit herself, but there was a certain nature about them that commanded respect and radiated dignity.

     Kit waved her hands in front of her face, shaking her head a bit. "Please sirs, no honourifics. It's just Kit."

     Thalor blinked a little, clearly caught off-guard by her request. "If...you insist, Kit. Welcome to Altea!" His smile returned to its fullest. "We sincerely hope that you will be our guest until the remaining Paladins find their way here." 

    His tone was warm and welcoming, and once again, Kit found her nerves being soothed.

    Perhaps it was something in the air...

    She heard footsteps behind her as her passengers made their way down the ramp. Weapons were drawn and Kit looked back to see Kolivan and Thace with their hands held up in surrender. 

    "Lower your weapons, please!" Thalor insisted, turning to address his guard. "The paladin as seen fit to trust them, and the Blade of Marmora is not our enemy. Please, be at ease." They followed his command and the Blades lowered their hands. "Dearest allies, please allow me to welcome you to Altea! If you would please, follow Emry and myself, so that we may show you to your chambers while you stay?" 

    Kit found herself smiling as she finally stepped away from the lion. The chancellor was a kind man with a vibrant aura, bearing absolutely no ill will; simply a sense of serenity. She followed them, and Kolivan and Thace behind her. The elder of the two had been to Altea several times under Chancellor Alvelan, but not since the Federation had emerged as a major power in the universe. Kolivan would not admit that he had missed the serene world, but it was true. The way the Alteans meshed their lives and technology with the subtle energies within the planet and atmosphere was rather unique and allowed them to possess their alchemical knowledge. 

 

    

 

    The white and cream halls of the castle were not unlike those of the former Castle of Lions, and the sounds of their footfalls echoed around them. 

    Kit still felt painfully underdressed. 

    "I'm rather afraid that the Atlas is not within the capitol, Kit," Thalor -who waked beside her- explained, "We were caught off guard when the Atlas returned to the planet, and had already rebuilt much of our civilization without heeding any sort of thought that it would ever land here."

    "So, where is it then? Off world?" Kit had tucked her hands in her pockets and kept her pace and speech casual. She'd attempted to be a bit more proper, but the attitude had been quickly dismissed by the boyish Chancellor. 

    "No no, it is on Altea," Thalor shook his head and glanced over at her. "It resides in the mountains of Elmod'dhea, not more than a hundred kylameters from here. We keep it well guarded, naturally." 

    "We recovered the informational files from the main bridge of the vessel," Emry looked over his shoulder at the Blades. "Perhaps it may be of use to you?"  

    Kolivan shook his head. "I was present for the majority of the events. I cannot think of a use for it. However, that answer may change as time goes on." A pause. "It seemed like you were about to say something else, Chancellor?" 

    Thalor nodded and his brows drew together in thought. It was a rare serious expression. "Yes, Tanek Kolivan. As a matter of fact, there is. Perhaps we could speak later, in private?"

    "Of course, Chancellor." 

    Thalor made a small gesture to Thace, omnipresent smile plastered to his face. "And your colleague, he is more than welcome to join. Ah, your chambers, Serke Kit. I hope they are to your liking. Here, press your palm to the panel there, it will read your print and allow you open access to the rooms."  

    Kit did as instructed, but a bit hesitantly, and the pad clicked in approval. The doors opened, revealing a spacious room with a tall window directly in front of the door. Her eyes widened a little. 

    "Chambers fit for a paladin, Serke Kit." Thalor's grin widened a little, making a sweeping motion inside. "After you."

 

 

    + + +

 

 

 

    Midori Outpost, tucked in the green mountainside of Lyons, Colorado, was built from the remnants of a small village north of Denver City. It was nothing special, a least not in Vex and Laika's eyes. 

    But then again, they were all too busy taking cover under the particle-barriers that encased the rock face to care very much. The commanding officers present had unanimously decided to lay low with the outpost for a few days, and radioed their decision to Fort Yellowstone. They were granted permission to proceed with their plan, and Major Arika showed them to open barracks, while Vex -who was nursing a few broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder- was led to the infirmary, with a worried Laika trailing behind like a lost puppy.     

    "...it's a chance to rest for a few days, if nothing else..." Laika sat by the cot Vex had been laid on, twiddling her thumbs a little bit. "The Admirals on the Rim can wait for us. Complications happen, they know that." 

    Vex reached for her hand with her good arm. "I know...We can trust these people, they've kept us alive so far, I think we'll be okay."  

    Laika held her hand gently, brushing her fingertips over Vex's calloused and scrapped up knuckles. She lifted her smaller hand to her lips and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand. "As soon as we're home, I'm gonna hand the files off to my lab, and we're gonna take some RnR time... I think we've earned it." 

    "You?" Vex turned her head to look at her, eyes a little wide. "Since when did you ever just trust your lab with anything without you around? And willingly take RnR time?" 

    The chemist chuckled a little, leaning down to kiss her head. "I dunno. Several near-death experiences in a single day can shape a person." She winked, "But now that you mention it, maybe I should process the data, and then take time off..."

    Vex smiled ever-so-slightly. "We'll figure it out when the time comes, yeah?" She gave her hand a little squeeze, still wheezing a bit. "Do you feel...I dunno, the air feels...weird."

    "Yeah, I feel it too, honey. As soon as you get out of here, I think we should go explore a little bit." Laika suggested, a hint of mischief in her tone.  

    Vex counted the reasons she loved the woman, and lost track well into the thousands. 

 

 

 + + +

     

 

    "So, Casey," Aaron sighed, laying flat on the upper bunk in the barrack they and Cassidy had been assigned. "Hobbies? Favourite books, foods, colours...?" 

    "Hm?" Cassidy looked up at the other bed as he re-laced the boots he had been given. He was rather nit-picky when it came to boot laces, regulation or not.

    "I mean, we're kinda'a team now, so learnin' a wee bit more abit' each o'er, yeah?" They rolled over and leaned over the side of the bed, looking down at Casey. "Y'good there, mate?"

    Cassidy looked up at them, picking up the other boot. "Yeah, it's just...been a long week, that's all."

    Cassidy replayed every event in his mind, from the very beginning of the first attack, right up to that moment of peace in the barracks. His sisters, mother, father... Who knew where they were, if they were even still alive. 

    Had Yvette ever made it to safety?

    "So let's get'ch'er mind offan it, yeah?" Aaron suggested, laying back flat again. "Favourite colour, go." 

    Cassidy paused again. It was such a stupid game to play, but still, Aaron right.

    It was a distraction.

    "Blue." 

    "Mate, that's a broad spectrum," Aaron pointed out, stretching their arms out and locking them under their head. "Be specific." 

    Cassidy thought long and hard. Would he say sky blue? Earth did not have "blue skies" any more. They were a perpetual grey and dismal. "Cyan blue. Better?"

     "Yep."

    "Yours?" 

    Aaron smiled triumphantly. "Red. Any shade. Favourite food?" 

    Another long spell of silence. He'd come from a relatively wealthy City, so life was good and they always had plenty of supplies... "My mom's onion rings, with the honey mustard dad makes."

    Aaron's face contorted in confusion. They'd never heard of such a thing, but they could guess. "...Fair enough. Mine's fish and seafood. Any kind, any time."  

    A chuckle was finally pulled from Cassidy's throat. "Whatever does it for ya, man. What about books? Do you guys read a lot here, or...?" 

    "Yeah, not so much readin'," Aaron remarked flatly. "We're kind too busy keeping ya' galooting ylextites safe an' alive."  

    "Oh."  

    The room fell into an awkward silence, save for the sound of Casey knocking his heel into his boots. 

    There was a light hum in the air, like a distant voice singing soft lullabies.  

    The lights flickered.  

    "Do they normally do that?" Cassidy asked, freezing mid-tie. 

    Aaron huffed and closed their eyes. "Nope." 

    "Did you hear the voices?" 

    "Yep."

    Cassidy sighed, pursing his lips. "Wanna go check it out?" 

    "Not particularly" was the disgruntled reply. Did he really strike that kind of a nerve with the sniper?

    Cassidy could hear them shift on the mattress, moving into a position to slid off the bunk and to the floor. "But you're going to anyway, aren't you?" 

    Aaron let out a long, deep puff of air. “Yep." 

    

 

    They made their way through the rocky tunnels as if they were regular staff, following the pull and echo of the voices and hums. There were no words spoken, save for the occasional "this way" or "no! Not that hall! That's restricted.", and they seemed fine with that. 

    It was Aaron who started to see things first. 

    "Oi, mate," They stopped dead in their tracks, eyes fixed on a little red light that hovered at eye-level a few dozen meters away. "Look..." Aaron nodded in its general direction. Casey raised a brow.  

    "What are we looking at?" He squinted a little as he looked down the hall. "The wall?" 

    "You don't see the light?" 

    Cassidy's face twisted in confusion and concern. "Literally the last thing you want to do in this situation is follow the light, so let's go this way, yeah?" He grabbed Aaron's sleeve and tugged them off down a different hall. "And away from the light." 

    Aaron glared at him and brushed his hand away. "I can walk on my own, thanks." They shot a glance back at the hall opening, where the light now hovered, glowing even brighter.

 

 

"I've been scanning the system...alien radio chatter..."

"...a symbol of freedom...hope..."

"This isn't a participation game....war....all you an do is get up and try to make it right..." 

"It doesn't matter where we come from..."

A great white light flashed, and the clang of metal-on-metal resounded and echoed as if from within a bell. It was a great and powerful sound... 

"...we will return...Triumphant..."

Another bright explosion of pinks and blues, and a strong wind encompassed her entire being. The noise of weapons discharging and soldiers fighting reached her ears, mingling with the metallic clashes.

Then, like a balm to the deafening echoes, came a soft voice... 

"This is our only chance to save all of existence...” 

 

 + + +

 

 

    Laika gasped sharply and her eyes snapped open, instinctively reaching for Vex beside her. She felt the other woman stir from sleep. 

    Voltron

    The word echoed in her thoughts like a ball bouncing endlessly in her thoughts. "Vex, vex wake up..." She shook her a little, sitting back when Vex finally showed signs of consciousness. "Did you hear that?" 

    "Hear...what?" Vex grumbled sleepily. "I had a weird dream, but that's about it...why?" 

    Laika bit the inside of her cheek and climbed out of bed, going to get fully dressed. "We need to go...like I said a couple days ago. That energy pulling us here, to the base... It's really strong." 

    There was a shuffle of fabric and limbs, and within ten minutes, Vex had caved, gotten dressed, and the pair were stalking through the halls. Laika led the way, sometimes picking her pace up to a quick jog. 

 

    "C'mon! It's just through here!" She called over her shoulder, already on her knees and tinkering with the locking mechanism on one of large hanger-like doors that led deeper into the mountain. 

    "Laika, we really shouldn't be-"  

    "Oi! Back off an' I won't report ya." 

    Vex turned around slowly. "Who are you two?" 

    "The name's Sergeant Michaelson, and this is Cassidy Issacs, now tell ya' lassie t'step away from the door an' I won't report ya." The ginger quipped, voice a bit too high and smooth for a male.  

    "Did you hear it too?" Laika butted in, not standing up. "The voices, visions...voltron?"

    There was a pause. "Yes." The white-haired boy concurred. "Yeah, we did...we were coming to investigate. I suppose you were too?"  

    Vex and Laika nodded in tandem. "Yeah," The former confirmed. "So how about we drop the hostilities and go investigate together. Okay?"  

    Aaron hesitated, but was cut off by the door hissing open.

 

"...a symbol of freedom...hope..."

"This isn't a participation game....war....all you an do is get up and try to make it right..."

"It doesn't matter where we come from..."

 "...we will return...Triumphant..."

 

    Laika's eyes widened at the sight before her. Encased in a glowing green orb was a great green beast, with eyes as yellow and glowing as the sun. She ran into the room with no reserve or hesitation, stopping when she was only a meter away from the orb. The others were right on her heels, just as awed as she. 

    "This is the green lion..." Laika murmured, voice barely a whisper. "The left arm and Shield of Voltron... Why is it here?"

    "Because Midori Outpost was created to shelter it when Coran banished them to the universe." They all turned around simultaneously.

    Aaron flinched, visibly grimacing. Colin was behind her, as well. "C-captan! A-Auntie Romelle... hi, yes, good to see you! Coincidence, yeah?" 

    The Altean woman crossed her arms and tapped her foot against the rock. She was not amused. "You're lucky it has its paladin, or else you four would be in a lot of trouble." 

    They exchanged an uneasy glance, and Vex was the one to speak. "Laika and I swore an oath to protect this world and bring it to peace. If reforming Voltron is what it takes to carry out that oath, then so be it."

    Colin's brows shot up in surprise and he looked over at Romelle. "They certainly don't lack the rigor." He said in a low voice. 

    She nodded slightly. "Agreed." Romelle took a sharp, deep breath before continuing. "Lieutenant Ryner, I think you know exactly what to do now." She nodded towards the lion behind Laika.  

    The Olkari woman bit her lower lip, looking back over her shoulder to the lion. "How do I get past the particle barrier?" She asked, eyes going back to Romelle.  

    "You already know. Just follow what your instincts tell you." Romelle's voice took on a softer tone, encouraging the Olkari to proceed. 

    Laika nodded, drawing in a slow, long breath. Vex knew she was nervous and calculating as she approached the lion, palms raised to shoulder height. "Here goes nothing, I guess..."

    Her hands splayed out on the glowing surface of the particle barrier, eyes closed as she shoved all of her energy towards it, willing it to shut down and allow her passage.  

    Within a minute the barrier fell, the lion sprang to life, and an almighty roar echoed across the cavern, making all the others -save Laika- flinch and shy away. Laika let out a deep, throaty chuckle as she jogged towards the lowered and open mouth of the Lion. 

    The others had no choice but to follow her, with Colin and Romelle bringing up the rear. 

 

 

    "Okay, real questions here, lassie-" Aaron pipped up, leaning over the pilot's seat and over Laika's shoulder, hand on their hip. "-are y'actually a qualified pilot for one a' these?"

    Laika and Vex shot them identical, bone-shilling glares, and Aaron shrunk back in surrender. Neither had the chance to respond before the ground beneath them shook and the base alarms went off.  

    Colin's eyes widened and he tapped Laika's shoulder frantically. "Time to go, Lieutenant...!"

    Laika nodded and gripped the controls, and the cockpit burst to life in a flash of green light. With another roar, the lion's coiled, mechanical muscles unwound, sending it clear through the rock above and into the sky. The passengers yelped, several of them stumbling back or gripping whatever they could for balance, including the pilot's seat.  

    They were met with plasma fire and ion blasts.

Chapter Text

black blood 

    In the early 20th century on Earth, advancements and breakthroughs in science and technology occurred only days or weeks apart, and the time is now considered one of the best textbook examples of human evolution. Aviation, the vaccine, mass-production, chemistry, genetics…the list goes on.
    But something happened by the middle of the century, and the world seemed to grind to an evolutionary halt.
    Today, we call it “The Lost Century”.
    The period of time between the 1940s and the 2050s, during which world wars and tyrants ravaged the planet, fueled by deadly secrets kept from even the highest levels of the so-called “governments” that lead the world. Operations that were so covert and secret that they were written off by the general populace as wild and impossible conspiracies designed to distract the world from the “real” problems being faced by our civilizations.
    These “dark agents” held the key to humanity’s best-kept secret:
    Aliens
    The contact and encounters with extraterrestrial life-forms was -at first- concealed by legal government agencies, who kept legal secrets from civilians and released information that only suggested and debunked the existence of life outside Earth’s atmospheric borders.
   Then we went to the moon.
    In the 1960’s, alleged contact with aliens became more and more popular, and as actual reports of contact and sightings began to surface, the governments leapt into action, creating these agencies to investigate, manage, and cover up these occurrences.
    By the middle of the decade, it became deadly.
    It is known -with good reason, as the evidence to support this is overwhelming- that these operations became so deeply rooted in the very foundations of society, ropes wrapped around the necks of science, academia, military, and government operations, that even the smallest slip-up or expression of belief in the truth could end lives.
    Kennedy’s assassination.
    The halt in technological advancement.
    The deaths of military and scientific leaders…
    People just…disappeared.
    The generation had ran the governments in the late 20th and early 21st centuries was determined to take the information that they learned from the Aliens that dared to make contact or who accidentally crash landed on Earth, and turn it on the world. Their media had told them for decades that an “alien threat” would be the only thing to unite the world.
    After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, correct?
    And so the process began.
   These deep black programs and agencies with their illegal secrets began to recruit scientists, engineers, and academics to reverse engineer the alien crafts and create man-made replicas. Agents were placed in the very core of all media reporting, and anyone who made any move to reveal this information was…
    Well…
    Let’s just say they were…dealt with.
    Loose ends were tied off, and the entire ordeal was written off as a conspiracy created by lunatics and rednecks who wanted media attention.
    Oh how wrong that belief was…
   The paradigm shift that rocked the world began when the “millennial” generation entered government positions and began to take control of entire nations in the 2040s. These were the people who had grown up hearing the beginnings of people emerging with truths about these programs, and by 2057, these deep, illegal secrets were disclosed, and the organizations that created them flushed out of existence with the ending of the Third World War.
    This created the beginning of a new era of exploration and advancement that would later be dubbed Earth’s Second Golden Age.
    In 2060, Man set foot on Mars, and the world was colonized by scientists.
    In 2065, we colonized the Moon with civilians.
    In 2070, the first alien genome was sequenced.
    In 2075, the Universal Database was created, with all known earth elements and genomes as the framework.
    By 2090, the Galaxy Garrison was created, and humans began traveling between nearby solar systems.
    In 2115, a team of scientists from the Garrison made its first encounter with a hostile race.
    In 2116, three Garrison cadets went missing.
    In 2117, the Galra attacked Earth.
    In 2121, Voltron returned, and the war was ended.
    But as per the mandates of natural law, this peace did not last, and within fifty more years, we were plunged into the same war we had fought in the 20th and 21st centuries. The fears of the dark agents who had once ruled the world from the shadows came to light, and the world stood toe-to-toe with aliens.
    However, their predictions that the world would be unified by the threat was far from the reality that unfolded.
    On one side of the battle stood the Aemulatori, the ones who believed that alliances should be formed, and on the other, the Praecessori, who believed in the extermination of all alien races on Earth.

    The war raged on for a century, and more black ops agencies rose to govern the shadows, with the governments like marionettes in their hands.
    Who were they? These new world organizations whose fingers rested on the pulse of Earth?
    They were the Children of the Galaxy Garrison.
    Prometheus and Renegade…

   Like the organizations of old, they were written off as monstrous conspiracies, and functioned like well-oiled machines within the framework of Earth’s tattered civilization.
    As the war’s climax ended, and the conflict continued at a slow, steady pace -with no end in sight- the strength of Prometheus wained, and they passed out of all knowledge. On their world, they thrived, and they learned to use Earth’s ignorance to their advantage, now beginning to use the anonymity to rescue any surviving Aliens on Earth. Their scientific community continued to build the UDB and attempting to combat the weapons of the Galra who threatened the Homeworld -Earth.
    But of course, time was quickly running out, whether or not the general population knew that.

Chapter Text

     Thalor insisted that they discuss what needed to discuss out on the balcony, and tea was soon brought to them as well. He claimed -with his signature, cheerful grin- that formalities such as stuffy conference rooms and poor hosting techniques were wasted among allies. The Blades had shown no resistance, and their only qualm was feeling mildly underdressed. 

    Thalor had quickly dismissed these concerns as well.

    “Altea keeps its distance from conflict. We will send assistance to our allies, yes, however, only if desperately needed.” There was a slightly somber edge in his voice as he examined his teacup, sitting with a bit of a comfortable slouch in his seat. One leg was crossed over the other, with his free arm draped out on the table. To an outsider, Thalor appeared to be no more than an Academy student. “Our resources are greatly limited, and we can scarcely afford the loss of life.”

    Kolivan nodded, taking the chance to speak as his companion sampled one of the colourful tarts that had been brought with the tea. “And that we understand very well.”

    “I greatly hope that no one takes our isolation as insult, Tanek Kolivan,” Thalor did seem greatly troubled by issue at hand. That much was rather obvious. “Alteans have always been a race of small population, and that is greatly influenced by our natural life-cycles. We cannot repopulate as quickly as shorter-lived species can.” 

    “The same is true for the Galra, believe me.” Kolivan agreed. “But at least now that a new generation of Paladins is rising, there is far more hope of us winning this conflict, or at least shifting the balance of power in our favour.” 

    Thalor hummed, “I concur. Although, I do not believe that one legendary mech can deter Empress Mori. That woman is a formidable force on her own, let alone with such an empire behind her.” 

    “And there is still rumor that she plans to try and renegotiate an alliance with the Galra.” Thace tacked on, sitting a bit more comfortably in his chair. 

    “But, the conflict between the two is the only thing standing between them and full strength.” 

    “Exactly.” The younger blade took a sip of tea before continuing, “The rise of a new Voltron could be the catalyst that sets into motion the next chapter of this war.”

    “If Mori and Ioriston form a permanent alliance, I do not believe there is a force strong enough to put an end to them.” Thalor admitted, confidence slowly deflating. “If the Galaxy Coalition was still in tact, we may have stood a chance. Without the support network of those hundreds of worlds -that have by now been re-assimilated into the Empire or the Federation- we will be pressed to find strong allies.” 

    Kolivan had to concede to his point, but only to an extent. “The closest we still have to something such as the Coalition is the Nixtian Belt Alliance.” 

    Thalor cut in without missing a beat, “But Honerva is not one to openly walk into conflict, especially if she knows she can’t gain anything. She is too cautious. And we share the same concerns regarding populations.” 

    “Unfortunately, you have a point.” Thace sighed, crossing his arms. “She’s never done anything without having at least six backup plans. You and I have known her long enough to see that in action.” 

    Kolivan nodded again. “And for as “reclusive” as Altea is, Chancellor, Naxella is arguably worse.”

    “Not to mention that they have no standing army.” 

    “And she won’t poke her nose into the affairs of the rest of the universe,” Thace added, plucking another tart from the plate. “Not unless she has good reason to.” 

    “You’re not wrong.” Thalor’s brows drew together in thought, “But she does have a history with the Federation, and it’s personal, from what I understand. That might be cause enough for her to intervene.” 

    This ushered in a moment of silence, where the trio simply weighed what was being said and implied. There was a great conflict at hand, no doubt, and yet again they would be forced to pick up whatever pieces remained and try and put them back together in a manner that would help them win the war. 

    But in those days, there were so few pieces, all scattered so widely across the universe that finding them all in a timely manner seemed like an impossible feat.

    Kolivan was the one to break the silence. “I have no doubt that once the other paladins arrive, we will be able to formulate a better plan.”

    The young chancellor nodded. The action was tired and his shoulders slouched a little, almost as if he had been defeated in a great battle. “Agreed.” 

 

 

+ + +

 

 

    “Y’know,” Laika snarled, knuckles aching from how tightly she gripped the controls. “the last time I had passengers-” She jerked the vessel to the left, dodging another ion blast, “-they were quiet! And actually trusted my capability as a bloody pilot!” 

    Casey yelped, a rather undignified noise, as he lost his balance and was tossed to the side, accidentally dragging Colin and Aaron with him. 

    “That’s because you actually knew how to pilot the Galaxy-class ships!” Vex argued, clinging to the back of Laika’s seat for dear life. “And we weren’t under heavy artillery fire without backup!”

   The lion and its passengers had barely cleared the outpost when the cruiser descended upon them, firing mercilessly. 

    Colin managed to regain his balance and braced himself beside Laika. “You need to take out the dorsal and lateral cannons,” He instructed, voice raised, but still a bit more calmly than the Commander. “Then go for the spine!”

    Laika nodded in acknowledgment. “Yes sir!”

 

 

    They made it through the atmosphere and to the edge of the system with only a few more incidents, and Laika’s passengers seemed to be recovering fairly well. They were just a little shaken up, nothing too serious. 

    “So…what now?” Casey asked, sitting off to the left, back against a console. “Like, are we stuck out here, or is there a certain place we have to go?” 

     “In theory, the Lion should be leading us to its home,” Romelle spoke up for the first time since they all boarded the lion. “Laika, do you still feel its quintessence around you?” 

    All eyes turned to the Olkari, curious brows raised. “Yeah, it’s kinda weird. Like its talking to me, but not with words. It’s more like feelings and instincts…” 

    “And what, prey tell, is it tellin’ ya right now?” Aaron asked, sitting across from Casey. “Are ya ev’n the one in control of this tin can?”

    Romelle shot them a glare. “Mind your tongue.”  

    “Yes ma’am.”

    “Major, is that a wormhole?” Laika cut into the conversation before Romelle could rail on Aaron too much. 

    Romelle looked out the viewport. “Mm? Yes, it is… Is the lion pulling you there?” 

    Laika nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat as she pulled the controls back. “Vex? Honey, you’re the senior officer… What do I do?” 

    Vex sucked in a long, deep breath, chewing on her lower lip. “We’re a team now, the choice should be unanimous. But if we go through there, there’s no telling where it goes or when we’ll see our homes and families again.” 

    The cockpit fell silent as the passengers mulled over the potential consequences. Cassidy’s face fell and he looked out at the viewport, but the expression did not escape Aaron. 

    “‘Ey mate…The Commander is right. We’re a team now, yeah?” They patted Cassidy’s shoulder gently. 

    “I say go for it, Commander.” Colin said encouragingly. “Everyone concur?” 

    There was a chorus of agreements and Vex leaned down to peck Laika’s cheek. “Go for it, Lieutenant.” She said softly, resting her hand on her shoulder. 

    Laika took a deep breath. “Roger that, Commander… I hope everyone’s okay with potentially being court marshaled…” 

    And with that, she pushed the controls forward and the Lion sped up towards the swirling vortex that appeared before them.

 

 

+ + +

 

 

    Within less than three hours, Kit had found her way to the kitchens. She just couldn’t resist the urge to do so. After all, she had heard of the legendary standards that Altean chefs held themselves to, and she simply had to see it for herself. 

    Or taste…

    Or smell…

    Preferably all three simultaneously. 

 

    “Okay, I don’t speak a word of Altean, but can someone please explain to me what smells so amazing in here?” Kit asked the second she reached her destination. Every person in the kitchen looked up and over at her in unison, most of them wearing surprised or vaguely unreadable expressions. Kit tried to look as innocent and harmless as possible, holding her hands behind her back and pulling her shoulders closer together. 

    In her state -with messed up hair, baggy traveling garments, and a chip in one of her horns- there was no way she looked like much of a threat.

    “And who are you?” One of the cooks, an older woman with jet back hair tied into a long braid, asked. Her hands were on her hips, and she had a brow quirked at Kit. 

    “Name’s Kit…I’m a-”  What was the Chancellor considering her? “-guest of Chancellor Thalor. I just arrived a couple of Vargas ago, and I got bored, and a little curious.” 

    The cook simply inhaled and dusted her hands off on her apron. “Any guest of the Chancellor is a guest of ours.” She let the breath out in one puff. “Any experience in the kitchen, dear?” 

    Kit shrugged awkwardly. “I guess you could say so, yeah.” Galleys onboard Galra command ships and too many bar moons to count… Kit mused to herself as she approached the woman. 

     She smiled a little and waved Kit over. “Well Kit, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Myra, and you’re welcome to put on an apron and help us fix up supper, if you’d like.” 

    Kit’s face lit up and she nodded fervently, earning a chuckle from Myra. “Menu tonight’s grilled wyrlycyyn and stromcil with junniberry sauce. Ever heard of those?” 

    Again, Kit grinned. “Yes ma’am. Wyrlycyyn’s once of my favourites. Hard to find where I’m from, but any chance to get it, I take.” 

     Myra laughed a little. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, yes? The Chancellor is a bit of a picky eater, so I’m trying to…sneak in a little variety.” She winked. “Think you can help with that?” 

    Never one to pass up a decent challenge, Kit tied the apron around herself and cracked her knuckles. “Oh of course.”

 

+ + +

 

    Honerva was in a less-than-pleasant mood when she and the Doctor returned to Naxella. 

    In the past three quintants alone, she’d deflected a Federation attack on her world, sunk low enough to go retrieve the missing ambassadors herself, and now was covered in the blood of three different species with a hung-over human in tow. 

    Karma truly is a bitch, She mused, pushing her dirty hair out of her face. Honerva simply wanted a few Vargas to take a bath and burn her clothes. 

   But of course, the universe seemed to have it out for her that particular movement. 

 

    “My Queen!”

    The Altean girl was still young, but had a powerful mind. Honerva was slowly coaxing her to use it for more…resourceful purposes. 

    Honerva straightened her posture. “Is something wrong, Luca?” 

    Luca shook her head, but was too panicked for any of her actions to hold much conviction. “No my Queen, not in my eyes.”

    “Then what, prey tell, has you wound up like a Trillian coil motor?”

    “The yellow and green Lions have awoken, and the presence of Altean energy grows strong.” Luca laced and unlaced her fingers nervously behind her back, unsure of how the queen would take the news. 

    Honerva’s expression remained neutral, save for the slight lift of a brow. “Oh? Now that is intriguing.” She looked back over her shoulder at Dr. Andrata, then back to Luca. “Monitor the readings and inform me of their movement every two Vargas.” She ordered, voice cool and even. Even the human could tell that the gears in her mind were already turning, devising a new plot of infinite scale. 

    “Yes, Your Highness.” Luca bowed low at the waist, one fist over her heart and the other at her back. As she stood and turned to leave, Honerva called for her again.

    “And Luca?” 

    The girl spun around on her heel to face the queen.

    “I am impressed with you.”

    “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

 

    The words scared her senseless. 

    “‘Nerva?” She forgot that Dr. Andrata was with her. “Y’ look like y’ gt smacked with a brick di-”

    “I’m fine.” Honerva snapped, holding her hand up to silence him. She didn’t want to deal with Alteans any more than she had to. She still couldn’t face them, not after-

    Richard made a daring move, resting his hands on her shoulders. “Y’ sure, ‘Nerva?” 

    Honerva’s nose scrunched in distaste, but she made no effort to remove his hands. The feeling was oddly…comforting. “Yes.” The tone was bitter and coarse, a remnant of the witch’s spirit that had once possessed her. She still retained a bit of the persona, simply unable to fully shake the weight that still held her down.

     She had murdered her own people -her own planet- in cold blood…

     Her son died at the hands of his parents.

     How did one forget that kind of thing?

    Honerva’s hands found Richard’s, resting over them delicately as she closed her eyes and sighed. They stayed like that for a moment before Honerva pushed his hands away. “I just need some time. Alone.”

The doctor nodded and backed off. “I can show myself to a room, thanks.”

    “I will send Vero to escort you,” Honerva put her hands in her pockets and ran her thumb over the knife in her pocket. “An itinerary for the conferences had already been uploaded to the interface.”

    Richard watched her with narrowed eyes and drawn brows. It was a concerned expression. “Thanks, ‘Nerva. Just look out for y’self, okay?”

    She nodded. “I always have, Richard,” Honerva sucked in a long, deep breath. “And I always will.”

    Another minute passed in silence before Richard patted her shoulder gently. “Promise?”

    “The blue lion has awakened…” 

    Honerva sighed, gripping the knife as the memory cut into her thoughts. “Yes.”

    “…and now I feel a resurgence of Altean energy.”

    “Alfor’s daughter lives…” His voice was deep, like a rumbling thunder. It washed over her like a security blanket. “How?”

    “I know not.” Her eyes were fixed on the stars before them. Their dominion. “But now it is time for us to claim what is rightfully ours.”

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    Thalor was once again a giddy schoolboy when the second lion arrived. Emry, on the other hand, wore an expression that was entirely unreadable as he stood beside his Chancellor. 

    Who looked annoyingly charming that day, especially draped in that particular shade of green that he loved so much, Emry huffed, holding the tablet tightly behind his back. 

    “Paladins!” Thalor greeted them, almost laughing. “It is such a great honour to finally meet you all!” 

    The shortest one seemed to stand the tallest and the most like a leader. “According to the database on the Lion, you’re Chancellor Thalor, correct?” 

    The man nodded and raised a fist to his chest before extending it out to her. “That is entirely correct, Paladin.” Vex shook his hand. “And what is your name, so that I may properly address you?”

    “Commander Vexyl Tomlin, Chancellor.” She said politely. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

    Thalor’s grin widened. “Commander Vexyl Tomlin,” He repeated. “An honour, truly.” Thalor turned to the woman standing closest to her. “And you, the Green Paladin, I trust?” 

    Laika’s eyes widened a little, but she smiled in acknowledgement. “I’ll take your word for that, Chancellor.”

    “Please, Thalor will do.” The young man chuckled warmly. “And your name?” 

    “Lieutenant Laika Ryner.” 

    If possible, Thalor continued to light up. “Such beautiful names, Dear Ancients. Are all those of Terrea gifted such stunning designations?”

    Colin shrugged where he was standing behind Vex. “Absolutely not, these ladies just got lucky.”

    The Chancellor raised a brow at him. “Hmm, oh dear. But that is no matter, I suppose. What is your name, dear sir?” 

    “Nothin’ fancy,” Colin stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Colin Holt, US Renegades.”

    Thalor reached to shake his hand. “Your rank? I’d much prefer to address you properly.”

    “No need,” Colin chuckled and gave his hand a firm shake. “Colin’s just fine.”

   Vex looked up at Laika, who was grinning and shaking her head a little. “He certainly is excitable, isn’t he?” She asked quietly, wrapping her arm around Vex’s shoulders. The shorter woman nodded. 

 

    When Thalor spotted Romelle and Aaron, he had to pause, eyes wide and lips slightly parted. “Ancients and Sages,” He breathed softly. “And here I was thinking the lines had been broken…Please, your names?” 

    “Romelle O’Toule,” She said gently, holding her fist over her heart. “Tá sé an-áthays bualaydh leat-a.” 

    Thalor offered his hand to her, and when she placed her palm in his, he kissed her knuckles softly.  “Níl, geallaym duit. Is é an t-áthays orymsa” He turned to Aaron. “You have an interesting energy about you, Paladin.” Thalor observed, smile morphing into a curious stare. “What is your name?”

    “Sergeant Aaron Michaelson, Seansailéir.” They said in a small voice. Aaron wasn’t sure how to react to the “interesting energy” remark. 

    Thalor shook their hand. “You are most welcomed here, Aaron. That I promise you.” His voice was kind and calming, and Aaron took comfort in it. 

    “Sorry I don’t speak much Altean, but go raybh mayth agat.”

    The chancellor smiled and bowed his head a little. “Don’t worry, Aaron. I understand. And I do apologize in advance if my knowledge of the Common Tongue is lacking in some respects.” 

    “Aye, but my versions a bit jacked than the other’s,” They laughed a little.

    Cassidy finally chimed in. “Yeah, no shi- kidding.” 

    That caught Thalor’s attention. “My, it seems we really do have all five paladins here now! Your name, sir?” 

    “Ah…” Cassidy hesitated. He’d never been a fan of his name. It was too…feminine for his liking. “Casey. Casey Isaacs. It’s nice to meet you, Sir.” 

    “Again, the pleasure is mine, Casey,” Thalor shook his hand. “Please, all of you follow me. There is someone here I do believe you all should meet,” He looked down the line at the six of them. “Promptly.”  

 

+ + +

 

    Kit had dozed off in the window seat of the library, where she had been instructed to wait with the Blades -who were currently somewhere amongst the bookshelves that filled the room- when the doors bust open. The yellow paladin nearly fell off the seat with a yelp. 

    “Comfortable spot, yes?” Thalor chimed, gesturing for the others to enter the grand room. “It’s claimed my consciousness on far too many occasions,” he laughed a little. “Kit, it gives my an incredible amount of joy to introduce to you the remaining four Paladins of Voltron.”

   There was an awkward chorus of “hi”, “hello”, and “nice to meet you”s as they waved to the horned girl. 

    Kit responded with a small wave and a shy “hello”, and Thalor exchanged a glance and a nod with his advisor. 

    “Alright, now that you’ve all met,” Thalor began, crossing his arms loosely. “Time to get to know each other and do some good old fashioned Paladin bonding!”

    Romelle stifled a laugh, but to little avail. She snorted a bit. “Oh dear…this will be terribly amusing to see.” 

    Vex bristled a little, not entirely sure she liked the implications. Even Emry cut into the conversation, successfully deflating Thalor’s cheerful mood. “Chancellor, may I speak with you and Iníon O’Toule for a tick?” He asked in a hushed tone. 

    Thalor -begrudgingly- agreed, and the trio stepped out into the hall. 

    “Sire, we don’t even know what Paladin will pilot each lion!” Emry pointed out in a loud whisper. “Nor do we have all of the lions, and we do not have any of the suits of armor, or their bayards!” 

    Thalor let out a small huff and chewed the inside of his cheek thoughtfully. “Well, the previous paladins were of Terrea…Iníon Romelle, are you aware of the locations of the bayards and suits?” 

    Romelle hesitated. Of course she knew that, but there were…complications. “Four of them, yes. But they are impossible to reach without making yourself known to both the Galra and the Human governments, who would like nothing more than to exterminate all alien life in their system. It would be a suicide mission, quite frankly.”

    “And the fifth set seems to be missing, of course,” Emry tacked on, earning an affirming nod from Romelle. 

    “Yes.”

    “So it appears that we are at an impasse…” Thalor concluded, ushering in a long spell of silence. 

    Voltron would be sorely needed, and soon. 

    “Our priority should be determining paladins,” The skittish advisor had turned back to his holopad, typing away at it as if his life depended on it. “Then locating the remaining Lions.” 

    Thalor and Romelle nodded in sync. “We have our Yellow and Green paladins and lions, and the Black lion is sealed deep within the Atlas,” Romelle explained. “Thalor, you seemed to recognize which of us were paladins when you greeted us. Were you able to sense their quintessence?” 

    Emry visibly winced. “Ah, the thing about that Iníon, is that Chancellor Thalor is well…” 

    The aforementioned chancellor raised a challenging brow at his advisor, as if daring him to continue speaking. 

    Emry bit his lip, but resumed his objection after a moment. ”He’s not the best Alchemist, per say…nor is he the…the most attuned to reading quintessence auras…”

    Romelle looked up at Thalor with a questioning expression. The chancellor tried to come up with a viable solution. “Then perhaps we find who the lions are bound to. Perhaps that person will be able to locate them for us, and then we can” -He sighed deeply- “go for there.” 

    “With all due respect, Sir,” Emry began. “That is an even more impossible task.” 

    “How so?” 

    Romelle’s expression fell to sorrow. “They were bound to King Alfor’s daughter, Princess Allura.” She drew in a breath, trying to remain calm. “She has been dead for nearly a century and a half.” 

    The air became tense and uneasy, and the mood held fast for several long minutes. The silence was broken only by Emry’s tapping at the holopad. 

    “But the passing of the bonds are directly linked to one’s bloodline,” He piped up after a while. “Did she have children? Any direct descendants that survive?”

    Romelle shook her head. “No. Her daughter and grandson are both long dead. I’m afraid that the bloodline of King Alfor has been broken, and with it, the Lions. It was luck that we found the Green Lion on Earth.” 

    “And pure chance that the Yellow Lion was on Drexel Pax…” Thalor sighed deeply, deflating his lungs along with his mood. 

    Less than a full Varga had passed, and they were already running out of options.

    Emry’s brows shot up as he examined the data on his holo. “Um, actually…” 

 

 

+ + +

 

  

    It had been decephoebes since she had entered such a state.

    Honerva sat on her knees, palms pressed to the glowing sigil on the cold floor beneath her as a loud, steady humming filed her ears. Her eyes were shut tightly, mind racing through the vastness of space and time. 

    She had to find them.

    Honerva knew Terrea. War-torn and desolate. Deemed a quarantine zone by the Alliance.

    The lion had already been taken from the depths it had rested in.

    Drexel Pax. Another Alliance world. Poor, but peaceful. The people lived simple lives. 

    Again, the lion had already been taken.

    And of course, Altea. It was not simply chance that the Atlas and Black Lion had ended up here, she knew that well. 

    Coran had always been too clever.

    But the other two? She knew not…

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    “”Actually” what, Emry?” Thalor asked, clearly feeling quite defeated. 

    “The lions give off such a strong quintessence signal that there’s at least one other person who knows where they are, or could find them,” Emry explained. “It’s just a matter of getting her on our side.” 

    Romelle seemed to figure it out first. 

    The woman narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “Absolutely not. I refuse to work with that- that-”

    Thalor gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Queen Honerva may be our best option. Speak with Melakor, have her send a message to Naxella. I’d be very interested to have an elder’s opinion on the matter before proceeding.”

    Emry nodded and made a note on his holo. “Mmhm, however, may I also recommend calling the Council first? Naxella is too reclusive to act impulsively, and a message approved by the Council would be far more likely to make it to Queen Honerva’s holos.”

    Thalor hummed in thought. “Agreed,” He bit his lip, now looking down at Romelle. “Your thoughts, Iníon? I would greatly appreciate your insight, not only as a survivor of the Great Wars, but as my elder.” His expression was soft and sincere, brows drawn up and a small smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Le do thoyl, mo dhaor?” 

    Romelle wracked her thoughts, trying to think of any way to possibly avoid dealings with Honerva and the rest of Naxella. She could not bear to have such interactions. It was a painful thought.

    “I would be ill-suited to advise you in this situation,” Romelle concluded, wringing her barrette in her hands. “You need an unbiased opinion. I cannot offer that.”

    The chancellor nodded reluctantly, lowering his gaze to the tablet in Emry’s hands. “I understand your concern, and I thank your for your candor.” 

    “Of course, Thalor,” Romelle smiled apologetically, “Emry’s right. Calling the Council is the best course of action at this time.” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    Colin vanished into the bookshelves to the Blade members, more than curious to learn about the state of the rest of the universe, and leaving the paladins quite alone near the window.

    “Kit Braxer, right?” Vex broke the awkwardness, holding her hand out. “I’m Vex. It’s nice to meet you.” 

    Kit looked at her hand and then up at her face. She had never seen such a dark-skinned being. Human, at least. She had never seen many humans, either. After a second, she took Vex’s hand and gave it a firm shake. They were like Ying and Yang, with hands clasped. Kit had heard of the concept -by a different name- from her new friend Myra in the kitchens. “It’s good to meet you too.”

    “Where are you from?” Vex prompted her, trying to initiate a decent conversation. 

    “Drexel Pax,” Kit replied simply, tucking her long legs under her and folding her hands in her lap. “I uh…I move around a lot.” 

    Vex nodded, catching the undertones and adapting to dispel them. “That just means you see a lot more of the universe than the rest of us do,” a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. 

    “‘Specially those of us from Earth,” Casey chimed in, picking at a loose thread on his sleeve. “Most of us never see the outside of the walls, unless we’re chased out.” 

    Kit’s ears flicked and she tipped her head to the side. “Walls? Are Earth cities encased in barriers?” 

    Aaron and Casey nodded in sync. “Yep.” The latter continued. “It’s for our own good, I guess. In a way.” 

    “How so? Is there an outside threat to humans? Some sort of wild beast that threatens you?” Kit asked, brows shooting up. “Like the dinosaurs I heard about?”

    Vex couldn’t help but laugh a little bit at her assumptions. “No, no it’s not dinosaurs. We’re in the middle of a very long, very difficult war right now…” She explained as Laika picked up her hand and rested it between hers in her lap. “The walls are to keep the remaining human population safe from our enemy.” 

    Casey nodded. “Unfortunately, if the particle barriers over the cities fail, it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m kinda surprised they haven’t taken that approach yet.” He tacked on softly, earning a comforting pat on the shoulder from Aaron.

    “Aye mate, but we’re ‘ere for ya,” They smiled gently. “Us an’ them Prometheans, we’re your knights in shinin’ armor.” Aaron winked and Casey couldn’t help but smile a little. Their cheerful personality was infectious. “And now we’ve got Voltron on our side. Them Galra’s gonna be runnin’ for th’ hills soon, yeah?”

    “Yeah,” Casey’s smile grew a little, “Yeah they are…” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    “I thought you said he was a terrible alchemist?” Romelle hissed to Emry, who sat next to her in the Council. “Why is he suggesting using a teludav system to wormhole into the tombs?” 

    There was a mischievous glint in the Advisor’s eyes as he held a finger to his lips and turned back to the discussion. Evidently, the Council thought it was a good idea, and were voting to grant their permission to proceed. 

   “I mean, it’s not a bad idea, but-!”

    “Seansailéir Thalor a fhyos cad atá á dhéanamh aige. Bíodh creydeamh mór dúin, Romelle, beydh gach rud go mayth.” Emry whispered to her. “Trust me.” 

    Romelle pressed her lips into a flat line, frowning a little. “I do, but we’re talking about dozens of lives possibly-”

    “Le do thoil. Muinín dom?” Emry’s expression was sincere, brows drawn in earnest. Romelle deflated, shoulders drooping. She wasn’t used to not being in charge of at least something (even if it was just a library). 

    “Tá…ar ndóygh.” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    “…so here I am with no pants, chipped glasses, and a face full of mud. There’s no way out, and everyone’s screaming at me for not remembering to carry my riffle to regulations!” Colin made a grand gesture as everyone around him doubled over in laughter at the story. 

    “Was that when we were still at Fort Yellowst’ne?” Aaron managed out, still wheezing. 

    All of them -Blades included- were sitting around a lounge while they waited for the return of the Chancellor and Romelle. According to Vex, it was “valuable bonding time”. Laika still could not believe the words had actually left her mouth. Athens smaller woman was comfortably draped across Laika’s lap, looking quite tired already for the day. It had been relatively eventful…

    Colin shook his head a bit. “No, it was right before you were assigned to us.”

    “Ah.” A pause. “What a’bit ya, Commander? Any stories from ya trainin’ days?” Aaron asked, looking a bit hopeful. 

    Vex sighed deeply, leaning more against Laika as a broad grin spread across her face. “Oh, one or two. I’m not entirely sure I should share. Might tarnish my chrome image.” 

    “Aw, come on, Commander!” Casey prodded, pulling his legs up and crossing them under him. “If we’re gonna bond as a team, we need to know about each other. Tell us your story, please?”

    Kit started the “tell us!” chant, clapping her hands a little. Her ears were flicking happily. 

    “Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!” 

    “A’right! A’right!” Vex laughed. “Alright! So the most embarrassing thing I can think of is-”

    “I swear to everything Vex, if you don’t tell the story about the Jyungvix incident, I will disown you.” Laika cut in, narrowing her eyes at her. 

    “We swore never to mention that again, Lieutenant.” 

    Aaron elbowed Casey in the ribs. “Oooh lover’s quarrel, eh?” 

    Vex looked like she desperately wanted to be mad, but simply could not be. “Oh alright….alright…. So, back about two years ago, right after I had been promoted, I was assigned to Jyungvix Outpost near one of our hub bases, and I’ll be straight up honest-” There was a burst out laughter. “-You know what I mean, dumbasses. Anyways!...”

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    The robe slid down her body smoothly, the light silk fluttering to the floor as she stepped away from it and to the deep bath that steamed a little bit against the cool air of the room. Honerva shivered a little as the air nipped at her skin, and then again as she slowly sank into the hot bath. It was incredibly therapeutic.

    Honerva tipped her head back and let her hair tumble from the bun she had pulled it up in, the long white hair soaking up the water that surrounded her. She felt her muscles relax and uncoil, and she recalled the few times her Lord had walked in on her bathing. He had been so embarrassed that first time. After that, he seemed to understand her lack of modesty and frequently watched or even joined her. Oh how she had loved when he would allow himself to sink into the hot water along side her. And she could scarcely count how many times he had taken her in those waters across those ten-thousand years. 

    She stretched her arms over her head, expanding her lungs and bringing her chest a bit out of the water. 

    It was rather cold in the room…

    And she did rather miss the way his hands molded to her slight body, holding her perfectly against him. 

    Honerva had to reel in her thoughts before she carried them too far and her other desires took over her mind. Oh how she missed him… Few people could look at him and know that his hands were actually incredibly soft or that he was an absolutely fantastic kisser. And he was shy, almost in a way that did not make sense for someone of his stature and personality. Of course, he could barrel though a battlefield and mow down his enemies without a second thought, and then go home to his palace and cradle his wife with all the delicacy of a new father holding his infant child. She would have to remind him frequently that she was Altean, and Alteans could shatter stars with their bare hands. Delicacy was not necessary. But he would never listen, except when she would beg him to. And that did happen on more than one occasion. The Galra were certainly interesting partners, especially when their biology began to interfere with their daily life. 

    The memory of her poor husband in heat pulled a warm laugh from her. He always looked so miserable during the day, only to nuzzle against her and hold her to him when they were alone. He showed such resistance to his own nature, simply out of fear of harming her. Honerva distinctly remembered one incident where they were both needing desperately, and how they had simply indulged in each other’s company for hours on end. 

    She also remembered not being able to walk properly for three days after, earning a great number of interesting speculations from her coworkers. 

   Honerva lightly scraped her nails up and down her thighs, trying to pull more memories from the depths of her mind. It was almost painful how much she missed his touch, and she lowered herself far enough into the water that her ears were submerged and all she could hear was the impossibly slow beat of her heart and the rushing of blood through her veins. 

    Somewhere, she could hear another voice and she raised her head, a look of deep displeasure on her face as she spotted her ever-faithful Page. 

    “What is it, Mirok?” 

“I apologize, My Queen, but Ambassador Ven’Tar Dhal has arrived.” He kept his gaze lowered to the floor beneath his boots, not wanting to appear to be spying on his Queen’s naked form. “Shall I send her the briefing data?” 

    Honerva ; pondered this for a moment. Richard, Ven’Tar, and the ambassadors from Kronos whose names she could not remember for the life of her, represented key powers in the Alliance, but she knew better than to begin the summit without the others. They would have vital intelligence for her as well. “Yes, and make sure she is shown all of our hospitalities as well. I will return to the court within the varga.” Honerva finally said, draping her arms out on either side of her body on the ledge and tipping her head back, eyes closed. “You are dismissed.” 

    Mirok bowed even deeper. “Yes, Your Majesty.” 

    She listened for his footfalls and waited for them to vanish altogether, but they were quickly replaced by shorter, sharper steps. 

    A human.

    Could she truly not be allowed a single dobosh of peace and solace?

    “Ah, they told me I might find you in here.” 

    Naturally. “Did they also tell you that I am perfectly within my rights to slay any who dare interrupt my peace?” Her voice held a bitter edge, but Richard could not find it within his ability to take her seriously. 

    “Yes.” 

    “Bold of you to disregard their warnings.”

    “You are entirely unarmed, ‘Nerva.” 

    “You assume far too much to still be alive.” She considered his presence for a moment, wondering what in the name of the Ancients could be so important that he would seek her out as she bathed. “What do you want, Doctor?”

    He seemed comfortable enough around her to sit on the vanity stool so that he could face her as they spoke. 

    Good luck to him that she was not shy.

    “I just received a communique from the High Council,” Richard offered her a holo, and she reached forward to take it. “All space traffic in the system has come to a complete halt and the Promethians have begun to send encrypted messages on old frequencies between Earth and an entirely random point in space. My technicians managed to decrypt a few of the messages, and it appears that the attacks on Earth’s American continent have increased alarmingly.” 

    “The Empire never rests, Doctor,” Honerva said bitterly, looking through the messages. “Not until they have exactly what they want in their grasp.” 

    “Should I dispatch a fleet to intervene?” 

    Honerva looked up at him with a raised brow. “That is entirely your decision, Doctor.” She let out a long breath and her eyes wandered out of focus for a moment. “But it would be wise to address the Alliance in courts before taking action. You may inadvertently reveal yourself and us if this is not carefully planned.” The queen returned the holo to him and stood up with no mind to the fact that she was not alone. The poor doctor yelped in surprise and looked away, pulling an amused scoff from Honerva. “My physiology is no different from your females, Doctor. I am not shy to an audience, nor would you be seeing anything that you are not already familiar with.”

    “It’s the thought, ‘Nerva.” 

    Another small laugh and she wrapped a fluffy towel around her torso before looking back to see the Doctor pointedly hiding his face in his hands. “At least you have your virtues, Doctor.”

    He yelped again when he realized she was right behind him, rummaging though one of the drawers in the vanity. “Besides, it was you who entered my chambers despite being warned by my staff. You should have expected this.” 

    “Expected what?” Richard finally turned to look at her as she clipped the towel into place and began to run her fingers though her wet hair. “That you would abruptly decide bath time was over and whatnot?” He sounded so mortified that Honerva couldn’t help but take a great deal of enjoyment from the situation. 

    “Expected to expect the unexpected,” Honerva chimed, wincing as her fingers found a sizable knot in her hair. “Ah, quiznack…” She hissed under her breath. 

    “Would you like some help with that, ‘Nerva?”

 

    “You’ve been working at that for close to half a varga…” Zarkon looked up from the book he had begun, perched on the edge of their bed and now watching his wife at her vanity, combing her fingers through her long hair. “Would you like some help?”

     She sighed, frustrated. No, she most certainly did not need help brushing her hair. “If you’re going to insist…” Honerva surrendered, holding a brush up for him to take. She did not need to looked back at him to know his movements, even without the sound of his armor shifting against itself. His footsteps were unnervingly quiet for someone of his size, but she could still hear him perfectly. 

    After a moment of him working the brush through her hair, and occasionally pressing light kisses to the top of her head, he wove the hair into a long braid down her back. She knew he had a sister, who had inherited their father’s soft fur-like hair over the stiff keratin that their mother donned. He had told her stories from his childhood, when he had learned to braid his sister’s hair. (Her name was Kerar, if she recalled correctly). 

    Eventually, he flipped the braid over her shoulder and dotted her exposed neck with soft kisses. He loved the way her body curved and angled so fluidly, like an elegant sculpture created by the finest artists the Gods had to offer. Honerva reached back and splayed her palm out on the side of his head. 

    “You’re in one of your moods, aren’t you mo grah?” She asked, a small lilt in her tone as she leaned her head against his. 

    “Perhaps…” His ears were pinned down and back against his skull, submissive and wanting at the same time. 

    She laughed softly as his mouth found nerve bundle at the base of her neck. There was a tug of muscle near her lower abdomen. “And how would my dear husband have me…?”

    “Anyway you would wish.”

 

    Honerva blinked, snapping back to reality only to see Richard waving his hand in front of her face. “‘Nerva, darlin’ you spaced out again.” 

    “Oh…”

    “Would you like some help with your hair?” 

    Honerva blinked again, processing his question. “Oh, if you are going to insist… I do not see why not…” 

    Richard nodded and guided her to sit down on the stool before taking the brush and running it though her hair gently. “Tell me if I pull to hard, okay?” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    “No, no I absolutely refuse to believe that the pristine, stoic, perfect Commander Vexyl Tomlin straight up got busted down two ranks for starting a fucking food fight,” Colin shook his head fervently. “No way. You’re too much of a stickler.” 

    Laika barked out a laugh. “Yeah, no. She’s not, trust me.” Vex whacked her arm playfully. 

    “Oh shut it, Lieutenant Got-Busted-for-Stealing-Fuit-Cups,” She shot back, pressing her lips into a thin line. 

    “I was a cadet!”

    “Mmhmm.” 

     The others watched the exchange with amused looks on their faces, and Laika was about to retaliate again when the doors burst open. Aaron yelped and nearly fell off the couch, clearly startled. 

    “Good news, Paladins!” Thalor practically sang, making a wide questure that came dangerously close to smacking Romelle in the face. “Sorry, love. It has been decided how we shall recover your lions and armor, but until then, we shall venture to the Atlas and get you all acquainted to the vessel. Perhaps get a bit of training in, as well!”

    Vex raised a brow at him. “The only lions we still need are blue and red, right?” 

    The chancellor nodded. “That is correct, Commander. The Black lion resides within the Atlas, locked away until the other four are present.” 

    “And it’s pretty clear that we have our Green and Yellow Paladins,” Colin tacked on. “Vex, I’d bet my left sock that you’ll pilot the Black lion-”

    “Colin, I swear to god if you’re making this about-”

    “-because if I remember correctly, the Black Lion needs a pilot whose crew will follow without hesitation, who can be trusted to make the right decisions,” He finished, making a point of holding her gaze stiffly. Vex backed down.

    Thalor looked a bit confused, but shook his head and returned to the conversation. “We will speak more about this later, and while I fear I do not understand the biology of Humans or Olkari, it is well past the time this palace serves its midday meal. If you would all allow me, I would escort you to the dining room before we depart?” A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, earnest and hopeful. 

 

 

    “This is fantastic!” Kit made a sound akin to a very pleased moan when she took her second bite of the colourful dish. “What is it?” 

    Thalor looked entirely too thrilled with her enthusiasm. “This, dear Paladin, is Falsrrot. A dish that I am told is native to the Altea of old, and a favourite of my own. The spices are harvested by local farmers, as are the vegetables.”

   Vex swallowed a mouthful before speaking. “It’s great that the capitol supports local and smaller establishments so much. Altea really is a wonderful place.”

    Thalor shot her a grateful smile. “Thank you very much, Commander. It has certainly been a hard-won peace, I admit. But it’s been well worth it here.” 

    “Do you think that if more Altean dignitaries and ambassadors were involved in more intergalactic peace talks, the treaties would succeed faster and better?” Vex proposed, taking a curious sip of the wine-like drink they had all been offered. 

    Thalor heaved a sigh, swirling the contents of his glass a bit. “Mmmm, perhaps, but Altea does not have enough skilled delegates. Not like we did ten-thousand years ago. Like everything else, it will take us time to fully rebuild our old ways. I would very much like to live to see the day that the Republic restored to its former glory…” There was a whimsical look in his eyes, and Emry caught the expression. 

    “Ah, yes,” The advisor cut in, shaking his head a little at Thalor, “Thalor’s made it is life goal to turn Altea into the same well-respected power it used to be.” 

    Vex nodded, taking another drink. “I don’t know much about Altea. In our system, we’ve grown to hate other civilizations to the point that on Earth -I think you called it Terrea- we hunt them to extinction, if we can. My people, those who rebelled, it’s our job to get those people to safety.”

    “That is incredibly noble, Commander.” Emry offered a kind smile. “And I know we -those who you deem “alien”- are immeasurably grateful to you and your comrades.” 

    “We do it because that’s what’s right. No Promethean is in it for the glory. The Renegades are the same,” Laika joined the conversation. “Some of us were born into it, like Vex. But we’re all there because we want to be.” 

    Thalor came back to reality at her comment. “I genuinely feel as if the lions could not have chosen better Paladins, Lieutenant. You are all brave and kind, just and fair. You already embody the ancient Creed of Paladins.” 

    Vex cast a glance at her new teammates. 

    At the other end of the table, Romelle seemed to be happily catching up with Kolivan and Thace, whom she had known long before the Voltron Massacre, when the War on Reality was still drawing to a close. Meanwhile Casey and Aaron seemed deep in an intellectual discussion regarding the exact number of ways someone could be murdered with a paper clip (Aaron argued that there were seven, while Casey firmly held his opinion that there were only five). Kit was mostly lost in her own little world with her plate of food, making little notes about it on a pocket holo. 

   “Perhaps,” Vex concluded. “But we are all unique in our own ways, and have our own values. We are compatible as companions, it seems, but I do not know if that will extend into battle.”

    “Your concern is valid, Commander.” Thalor nodded, brows drawn in thought. “In time, I hope we can rectify that. The Paladins of old were once mortal enemies of each other, who rose and grew to become the defenders of the universe. I have absolutely no doubt that you and your team will be able to rise as they did.” 

    “Commander, we have the Creed here, in the palace,” Emry cut in. “If you and the others would care to study it…” He made a small gesture outwards to the others. 

    “Thank you, Advisor,” Vex picked her glass up again, admiring the bluish liquid. So many thoughts all at once. So much had happened all at once. 

    Just three days past, she had been tangled up with Laika in bed, just enjoying each other’s company, and now they were tangled up in an intergalactic war…

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

 

    “My Queen.” 

    Honerva past the atom hologram she was manipulating to her annoyingly faithful page. “What is it, Mirok?” 

    “We have received a message from Altea, classified as top priority, and sent on an encrypted channel,” He recited, still bent into a bow. 

    Honerva  thought for a moment. Altea had become reclusive during its reconstruction. Which, in all fairness, made sense. Their population was too small to take any risks. Why would they need to contact her and her people so urgently? 

    Unless…

    “The blue lion has awakened, and now I feel a resurgence of Altean energy.”

    “Alfor’s daughter lives…” His voice was deep, like a rumbling thunder. It washed over her like a security blanket. “How?”

    “I know not.” Her eyes were fixed on the stars before them. Their dominion. “But now it is time for us to claim what is rightfully ours.”

    She dismissed the holo in the blink of an eye and her long robes billowed around her as she walked down the steps to the main floor of her laboratory. “Call the Court to convene. This matter has just become far more urgent than Chancellor Thalor understands…”

    “As you wish, My Queen.”

 

 

 

    The Court was not fully populated by its delegates. Only four, excluding herself and Luca, sat in their places at the Grand Table. 

    Thalor’s message had just fallen silent, asking for Honerva and Naxella’s help in the search for the remaining two lions, and for an alliance to be formed between their worlds. 

    Ambassador Ven’Tar made a point of stating that it was Altea’s first real act of inter-planetary diplomacy, moving for a vote to bring Altea into their alliance. 

    “I agree,” Richard piped up from his place, where for once he sat properly and with some dignity. “With everythin’ that’s been happening in the Solaras System and around Naxella, we’re gonna need all the help we can get.” 

    “It is not about “help”, Ambassador,” Ven’Tar cut in again. “It is about forming an alliance strong enough to end the Federation’s reign of terror.” 

    “And what of the Galra?” Ambassador Rajt (The first of the Kronos ambassadors that Honvera had forgotten) spoke up, voice as deep and rumbling as thunder. “Do we not seek to end their reign as well?” 

    Honerva sighed, feeling as if the action would entirely collapse her lungs. “No, Ambassador Rajt, we are not seeking to end anyone’s reign. There can be no singular power in the universe, but rather an uncountable number all coexisting in peace. That was what our peoples have sought to protect for millennia.”

    “You have no right to speak about protecting rights, witch!” Ambassador Krenik (the second Kronos delegate) hissed, slamming his large fist down on the table. All but Honerva flinched. “Empress of the Galra!” 

    Doctor Andrata held his hands up in surrender. “Easy there, Ambassador. Queen Honerva was a puppet to the Empire. None of that was by her will or choosing.” 

    “Ambassador Krenik, please,” Ven’Tar chimed in, clearly uncomfortable with the rising tensions. “This alliance does not exist to linger in the past, only to learn from it and use out knowledge and wisdom gained to lay down the foundations for a peaceful future for all peoples.”

    “Ambassadors, please!” Honerva stood up, splaying her palms out on the table. “The matter at hand does not involve these differences. What matters now is that we decide whether or not to bring Altea into the Alliance our people have created.” 

    The table fell silent. 

    “Ambassadors, if I may speak?” Luca’s small, deeply accented voice cut into the argument from her place beside Honerva. 

    Honerva and Andrata gave her a reassuring nod and she wet her lips.

    “I was there when Voltron restored justice to the universe, at the dawn of the Golden. Age when all was fair and right. The birth of this alliance. In those days, what mattered was maintaining the age we lived in, and now that era is gone.” Luca, who was no more than a favoured young Alchemist, held her head high with a sense of determination that her voice clearly carried. “We must do whatever we can to assist Voltron’s rise and work beside them in a renewed Coalition to see to it that the mission of this Alliance is carried out.”

    Ambassador Krenik clearly did not share her thoughts. “And who are you to speak on behalf of dignitaries on matters of politics and diplomacy?” He spat, lips curled into a deep snarl. “You are an insolent child, nothing more! Go back to your schoolbooks and science projects, girl.”

    Honerva bared her fangs, another frightening remnant of the Witch that had once possessed every atom of her existence like a parasite. “Ambassador, you will hold your tongue, or you will be dismissed from this Court,” She threatened, voice low and coarse. Luca shrank back in her seat, shoulders drawn together as she attempted to make herself as small as possible without shapeshifting into a smaller species. Out of the corner of her eye, Honerva spotted her guard scoot to attention like coiled springs ready to jump in and physically defuse the situation if necessary. 

    There was ice in Rajt’s voice as he addressed his companion in their native tongue. Whatever was said sent the man storming out of the hall, and with a flick of Honerva’s eyes, three of her guard were on his heels. 

    Ven’Tar’s posture slumped, her entire body seeming to deflate with the sheer force of the sigh that escaped her throat as she pressed the pad of her thumb to the space between her eyes. 

    “My colleague has lost my trust, My Queen,” Rajt spoke calmly. (He sounded incredibly disappointed, Honerva noted.) “We will elect a replacement for him to join this Court. Kronos will remain a member of the Alliance.”

    Honerva offered a grateful nod and slight bow of the head. “Thank you, Ambassador Rajt, for allowing civility to prevail. Our peace has been hard won. I am willing to whatever I can to preserve it.” 

    “As am I, Your Majesty. Shall we proceed with the vote regarding Altea’s entrance into the Alliance?” 

    Honerva cast a glance at the remaining ambassadors. “Yes, we shall. Those in favour…?”

    All raised their hands. 

    “Then I suppose it is unanimous,” She concluded. “We shall send word to Chancellor Thalor that his message has been received. Nixtia will accept their allegiance.” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    “What do you mean, wormhole in?!” Romelle shrieked, eyes wide in utter horror. “Without the exact coordinates of the tombs, wormhole-ing in is incredibly risky!” 

    Thalor seemed unbothered by her panic, sitting on the lounge with his legs pulled up and crossed under him like a child, not looking up from the book in his hands. Emry stood nearby, leaned against the arm of another chair with his nose stuffed in a holo. 

    The chancellor really needed to have a bit more….dignity. Even if he was just in the company of his advisor and their new companion. Emry was tempted to scold him for his lack of proper sitting etiquette. 

    But he did look adorable like that… The advisor visibly winced at his own thoughts, but the other two were too busy bickering about the wormholes to notice him. 

    “…trust me, Romelle.” Thalor sighed, clearly miffed by her lack of faith. “I may have a fraction of your knowledge and wisdom, but I do know who to make allies of. I know what I am doing.” 

    A small, irritated growl vibrated in Romelle’s throat, but she said nothing. 

    He looked up at her, “Now please, have a seat and make yourself comfortable?” Thalor’s tone suggested a question rather than a statement. “I’d rather my guests feel at home here, than constantly on edge.”

    If it was possible to sit down in an annoyed manner, Romelle managed to do so, legs crossed and almost pouting a little. “And when do you propose we leave for the Atlas?” 

    Thalor turned the page and stretched his legs out again. “As soon as word is received from Naxella,” he said calmly. “Queen Honerva is many things, but a procrastinator is not one of them. I implore you; have a bit of faith?” 

    Romelle huffed and leaned back into the plush lounge, arms crossed tightly over her chest. She wasn’t used to not being in control of situations… 

    “Thalor!” Emry couldn’t believe that his voice cracked so violently with the call of his chancellor’s name. “Thalor, they responded!” 

    The man in question shot up from his place and over to Emry at the speed of light. “And? Did they accept?” 

    At this, Romelle perked up. “Is it Honerva?” 

   Emry looked over at her as he handed Thalor the holo. “Not exactly, but rather Nixtia as a whole.” 

   “Nixtia?” 

    “The alliance she has built,” Emry explained as calmly as he could. “They are ten of the most powerful systems in the universe, all acting as one large underground resistance against the Vandeheim Imperial Federation.” 

    Thalor’s mismatched eyes widened and lit up as he finished the message, and without thinking or hesitating, he engulfed his unsuspecting advisor in a tight embrace. He let Emry -who had squeaked in a rather undignified manner as the air was forced out of his lungs- go almost as quickly as he had initiated the hug, and practically ran out of the room. Emry blinked, trying to figure out what had just happened, and he looked at Romelle, who simply shrugged.

    “Shall we go after him?” 

    Emry nodded, taking a deep breath. “Before he gets too excited and breaks something, yes.” Damn him and his impulsiveness…

 

 

 

 

    Emry, at least, was huffing and puffing by the time they caught up with Thalor outside the library, where the Paladins had taken up temporary residence. 

    “Three decades we have waited for Honerva to make a move in this game,” Thalor grinned, placing a hand on each Romelle and Emry’s shoulders, “now she has, and the game is finally afoot!” He patted their shoulders and burst into the room entirely unannounced, scaring the wits out of several of the paladins who were unfortunate enough to not be fully aware of their surroundings. 

 

 

    After receiving the run-down of the situation, Vex seemed relatively convinced that the plan could work. 

    “It’s a basis, at the very least,” She stated, arms cross loosely. The time for relaxing was over, and she was now back in the frame of mind to take on whatever was thrown at her. “We can work from here. Thalor, the plan thus far is to find the approximate locations of the tombs and create a wormhole nearby that will allow a small team to recover the armor, correct?” 

    Thalor nodded. “Yes.”

    “Right,” She inhaled deeply and let it all go in one long huff. “Colin, Kolivan and I will go down to recover it. From the Atlas, Romelle and Laika can monitor our status and update our ComCuffs’ data as needed…” 

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

(“Once we’re on the surface, Luca will need to keep the wormhole open, so that we can get clear signals in and out of the catacombs. The Paladin’s Tombs are nearly half a mile underground, and the ore overhead would otherwise interfere… We’ll have to be quick.”)

 

    Colin and Kolivan hauled the still-empty chest over to the vault doors as Vex worked at the old locks. 

 

(“Everything is old enough that it will have rusted over and will be easy to break through.” Vex pointed out, to which Laika nodded. “It would be a good idea if we had a sniper on the team, just in case.” Aaron stood a little taller. “Aaron?”)

 

    Aaron had managed to find a good vantage point from which they could see the entire chamber. “‘Ey, Commander? Atlas just sent a sub-message,” They hissed into the radio embedded in their helmet. “We have abit’ whate’re ten doboshes is t’ get the hell outta here.” 

    “Copy that,” Vex acknowledged. “We’re in and collecting now.”

 

(“And what if we get caught with our guard down?” Kit asked. The point was valid. 

 “The answer is simple,” Vex said confidently. “We won’t let it down.” 

“At the end of her message, Honerva said we’d have the full support of her forces if need be,” Emry stated, scrolling through his holo. “We can have a small squadron of her fighters flanking the Atlas.”)

 

    Laika fussed with the scanners on her Lion’s dash again, refreshing the feed and sighing in relief when only Honerva’s little fighters showed up. 

   “Hey Lieutenant?” Kit called over the lions’ com system. “Take a deep breath, they’ll be fine.” 

   “Yeah…” Laika sighed. “Let’s hope so…” 

 

(“As soon as the away team has the cargo, we can head straight back and be long gone before anyone can detect the radioactive signature,” Vex concluded. 

“And meanwhile, Honerva will be searching for the other two lions,” Thalor chewed on his lip thoughtfully, much to Emry’s dismay.)

 

    “Atlas…” Honerva’s gravelly voice rang over the bridge speakers for the first time. “I have located the Red Lion. It is buried deep in Daibazaal’s southern mines.”

   Thace -who had been elected Captain Pro Tem- opened the return channel. “Thank you, Your Highness. Let us know as soon as you find the Blue Lion.” He switched to the away team’s frequency. “Commander? Did you hear that?” 

    “Sure did, Atlas,” Vex chimed. “As soon as we get back, plot a course for Diabazaal. Wherever the Blue Lion is, we’ll go from there.” 

    “Roger that.” 

 

(“Okay, so assuming everything goes smoothly, what do we do after we get the lions?” Casey piped up. “We can’t just leap right into being Voltron…” 

“I’m glad you asked,” Thalor lit up. “Just you wait until you see the training programs the Atlas has in its systems!”)

 

    Aaron landed almost silently beside Vex as the team made their way to the pickup site closer to the surface. 

    “Someday…” Aaron said softly, “Someday we should come back, pay proper respects to them…” Their eyes wandered to the elaborate carvings on the stone caskets. “They deserve to be remembered as the heroes they were…” 

    Vex smiled gently at them, brows drawn up and together. “Then let’s continue their legacy…okay?” She held her hand out. 

    Aaron nodded and grasped her hand firmly. “As a team.”

 

(“As soon as the away team gets back on board the Atlas, Luca will close the wormhole and we’ll make our way to whatever coordinates Honerva sends us first,” Vex watched as Emry keyed in the next bullet point in his flow chart of their plan. “With any luck, we’ll at least have all five lions by the end of the day. Or um….whatever you call them.” 

“Quintants,” Romelle clarified. “Quintants are days, movements are weeks, pheobs are month-”

“Yeah, we get it,” Casey brushed the rambling aside. “Is that pretty much it, Commander?”)

 

    “Any word from Honerva?” Vex asked the second she was on the bridge. Kolivan and Colin were already taking the chest of recovered items to the Lion hangers. “Has she located the lions?” 

    Commander Thace nodded, turning around to face her. “The red lion, yes. Luca is opening a wormhole now.” 

    “Hostile territory?”  

   “Not that we’re aware of,” He made a small gesture to the status screens at the command console, “All readings indicate that the system is entirely abandoned. But, at the same time, our long-range sensors aren’t properly calibrated, and are very likely inaccurate.” 

    Vex brushed past him to review the data. She hummed, “Daibazaal… We should be careful, regardless. Who knows what kind of activity is in the surroundings. Or cloaked. On earth, most Galra battleships are quipped with cloaking technology.” 

    “Agreed. We shouldn’t let our guard down.” 

    Vex furrowed her brows and pressed her lips into a thin line. “You have the bridge until further notice. Bring the lions back in for the wormhole jump.” 

    A small smile tugged at the corner of Thace’s mouth. “Rodger that, Commander.” 

 

(“And what about you, Chancellor?” Romelle shot him an inquisitive look. “Will you or Emry be joining us?” 

Thalor chuckled nervously, “No, Miss Romelle, I will not be. My place is still with my people. It appears that we will have a guest to host and lions to find. I’d rather be here, building an army for the coming war.” 

“The guy’s noble, I’ll give him that…” Casey murmured to Aaron, who nodded in agreement.

“That’s a good idea,” Thace finally chimed in, “We will have to sort out our main priorities, so that there’s no confusion.” 

Emry nodded. “I’ve already called another general Council meeting, and Honerva made it a point to request Thalor and I’s presence at the Nixtian Court in three quintants.” 

“It seems she’s just as eager as we are to finally set into motion a larger play in this game.” Thalor tacked on. “With Voltron, tipping the balance of power in our favour is more plausible than ever.”

“So we’ll do whatever we can to facilitate that goal,” Vex nodded, shifting her weight from one side to the other as she turned to address the paladins directly. “Reforming Voltron should be our top priority...”) 

 

  Laika was back by Vex’s side the second they were in the same room. “Well, we can at least get suited up…” She peaked into the chest they had brought back. Vex made a bit of a face as she pulled out a large piece of armor, far too large for her. 

    “Please, someone, tell me that this shrinks down…” She sighed, pouting a bit. 

    Romelle patted her shoulder, much like a mother would to her child. “The armor morphs to fit its paladin, Commander. Do not worry.” 

    Vex brushed her hand away. “Fair enough.”

 

(Honerva was by far not what Vex was expecting. The woman was tall and thin, and stood straight as a metal rod, with narrow eyes drawn up slightly at the outer corners. Yet she carried the weight of uncountable years and unspeakable guilts in the lines of her face and the depths of her cat-like yellow eyes. When she looked at Vex -down the bridge of her long, narrow nose- she could feel the woman’s gaze burning into her skull as if searching for Vex’s soul. Her manner was…unnerving, to say the very least.

“Chancellor,” Her voice was coarse and cold, all formalities and business. “Tuigym go dteastaíonn uaym mo chúnamdh chun na Lyoins a aimsyú?” 

Thalor bowed in respect. “Yes, My Queen. Please, allow me to introduce you to the Paladins.”

She seemed less than interested in them, but she listened and held ever ounce of her political decorum, regardless.)

  

    The armor was certainly a team effort, including more than one startled shriek as their armor shrunk or grew to fit them. 

    “I’m still short…” Vex grumbled, eyes narrowed to slits as she compared her height to that of her girlfriend -she barely reached Laika’s shoulder… 

    Aaron laughed and pulled her into a surprise side hug. “Don’cha worry, Commander! Lack a’ height’s just an advantage y’ve got o’re yer enemies! They’ll not suspect that’cha’s as tough as y’are, and y’ll be abl’t’ catch ‘em off-guard!”

    She couldn’t be mad at them, no matter how much she wanted to be or tried. But before Vex could make a comeback, a hand snapped upwards across the back of Aaron’s head, successfully capturing their attention.

    “Either that or they’ll be too focused on the pendejo to notice you snaking up for the kill,” Cassidy crossed his arms across his chest loosely, quirking an almost patronizing brow at Aaron, who seemed to be seconds from tackling the other boy to the ground. 

    “Oi mate, the ears work fine,” They shot back, shrugging away the murderous reflex. 

    “Are sounds amplified because of the-”

    “Enough!” Kit shoved herself between them and yanked them apart. “We’re a team now, and internal conflict is exactly what’s gonna make us targets!” 

    “Hey, Commander Gay?” Colin’s voice crackled over the old radio in Vex’s helmet. “Honerva just transmitted the coordinates of the Blue Lion. It’s Kamynno, a Galra-occupied planet.” 

    Vex sighed and shook her head. “Lovely. But don’t panic too much, I might have an idea or two… Is Luca ready to open the wormhole to Daibazaal?” 

    “She is.” A pause. “And Commander? We trust you.”

    “Thanks Colin.” She drew in a long, deep breath and faced the other four. “Alright listen up! Luca’s readying the wormhole to Daibazaal, so Kit, Laika, you two will have to argue over who get’s to take Cassidy to his lion.”

    Kit snatched his arm without hesitation. 

    “Right then. Aaron, you and I will be on stand-by with MFE’s if things go south and Honerva’s fighters aren’t enough,” She continued. “Are you okay with that?” 

    “Aye, Commander,” They nodded, straightening their posture a bit, “Time to go on an adventure, eh?” 

    Vex chuckled through her nose. “You bet it is. Colin, did you and the Bridge catch all that?” 

    “Orange team is going for the lion, Greenie’s singin’ a solo, and the outliers are going old school. Yep, we got it.” It sounded like he was grinning on his end. 

    The paladins exchanged curious looks, Casey with brows raised as Aaron shrugged. 

    “Just…so long as you understand what’s going on,” Vex concluded with a light huff. 

    “Luca’s ten-ticks from opening the wormhole. Get ready for the jump.” 

    Vex gave a stiff nod and the other paladins headed for their assigned craft. “Rodger that, Bridge. We’re ready down here.” 

    “Righty then! Nine…eight…seven...si-”

    “COMMANDER! WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!”

 

 

+ + +

 

 

    “Commander Hepta, one of our deep-space scouts has picked up an unfamiliar reading in the Beta-Y-9 sector. A Terrestrial vessel, Daedalus-class.” Lieutenant Rhyce clicked her heels together and brought her fist to her heart as she spoke. “The Camara is transmitting the report now.”

    The commander’s eyes narrowed to slits. “So…that miserable Solaras System still exists…” Hepta hummed a little, thinking to himself. “Tell the Camara to maintain its position and heading. But, inform Emperor Ioriston of the activity, and…” He paused again. There were so many ways this could play out, but there were…considerations he had to keep in mind. “…dispatch the 7th Fleet to intercept this ship’s last-known heading.” Commander Hepta’s voice held an icy chill; the idea that humans might still be plaguing the universe disturbed him greatly. 

    The lieutenant bowed. “Vrepit Sa, Sir.” 

    As Rhyce turned to leave, Hepta called her back, “And Lieutenant? Do inform my brother aboard the Komar of the situation. I believe he has some…oh, unfinished business with that species.”

 

 

+ + + 

 

 

    Vex was the exact opposite of pleased. 

    “What the hell do you mean, “there’s Galra”?!” 

    Despite towing hilariously over her, Colin still felt very strongly that Vex could easily grind him into a pulp if he upset her. “Well, our intel was slightly outdated, and there is -in fact- a very well established Galra population on Daibazaal these days. Honerva may or may not have failed to mention that to us.” 

    “Yeah, obviously,” Casey stood beside Vex, arms crossed and eyes narrowed in confusion. “You would think she would’ve known and told us! It would have been nice to know that the territory is, oh, I dunno. Hostile!”

    Vex took a very deep breath and counted to ten before speaking again. “Cas has a point. We can’t just jump into anything without knowing more about the people there. I assume the Galra are still not very fond of Alteans and Humans?” 

    “Are you gay?” 

    Vex opened her mouth to make a remark, but snapped it shut and looked away when nothing came out. 

    “I’ll take that as a “yes”?” Casey asked, wincing. “Okay, so we need both lions, and both worlds are not only on opposite sides of the universe, but buried in hostile territory. What are our options? Can we do what we did with Earth?” 

    Colin shook his head. “We ran the numbers on that before we even told you. They’d detect the energy signatures of the lion the second it gets activated.”

    “What about negotiating?” 

   This time, it was Vex who disagreed. “Well, I’m not entirely sure they’ll be very keen on letting us pop by and pick up the weapon we plan to use to dismantle their empire.” 

    Casey huffed, looking a bit disgruntled. “Alright, point taken. What other options do we have?”

    Colin turned to Vex, brow raised in question. She knew what he meant.

    “Absolutely not.”

 

Chapter Text

} lesson 4 {
} the things best forgotten {


    Tell me, friend. When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?
    There are several common theories regarding how the Galra were able to take over on Earth again. Some people say spies within the governments, others say it was simply inevitable with Earth’s weakened state. There is no one conclusion that anyone who now remains can agree upon.
    But everyone can agree that nothing transpired as a film or novel would suggest.
    The people of Earth did not unite, and we most certainly never came to any agreements about how the issue should be handled.
    Our protagonists did not win the day.
    But there are certainly things we wish we could rectify. Things we wish we could forget, and our past clings to us with such a vile and bitter taste that it asphyxiates us in its hold.
    But there are some things that we have indeed forgotten, and it will come back to bite us eventually.
    How could we forget our alliances? Those golden ages of peace and unity where we advanced decades as one race?
    It appears that we have forgotten our origins.
    We are all made of the same cosmic dust, are we not?   
    Shaped like great swords and armor in star-forges, built from the ore of one mine. How is it that we can turn on each other so easily?
    Was there ever a time when we lived in complete peace? A place and time without the influence of greed, wrath, and pride? Was there really a singular cosmic event that brought those influences upon us? And if so, is there a way to remove them from our lives?
    Likely not.
    They have been engraved in us like natural law.
    All sentient beings are greedy.
    All sentient beings are wrathful.
    All sentient being are prideful.
    Humans, at least, have survived as such for millennia…

    Why should we have to be any different?