It's the last stretch of this story! Hope you're ready for this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Shiro’s feet hit the ground, pain shooting through them and up his legs, all the way to his spine, but he keeps running. The ground beneath him crunches under his feet, the rocks slipping from under them almost tripping Shiro over and sending him crashing into the thin trees and large rocks around him more than once.
A fighter ship passes over Shiro, firing at him, and Shiro barely dodges the blast.
“I need that extraction now!”
“A moment,” Lotor replies over the comms, calm enough to annoy Shiro just a bit.
“I’m going to be blown up in a moment,” Shiro shoots back just as another explosion goes off at his heels, shaking the ground and sending dirt and rocks flying in all directions.
“Patience,” Lotor says.
Shiro dives behind the large rock on his right, ready to tell Lotor where he can shove his advice and wondering if this is how it feels when he encourages people to be patient in tough situations.
“I am ready,” Lotor says after several, too long seconds. “Where are you?”
“Almost at the clearing.” Shiro keeps running through the forest of tall rocks and trees around him, down the slope of the hill, towards Lotor.
The fighters following him only double their efforts to try and blow Shiro up when Shiro nears his destination. Shiro grits his teeth, runs in a less of a straight line, and forces his legs to move just a little faster.
There, at the middle of the clearing, is Lotor with their ship. “I see you,” Shiro says and gathers the last of his strength, and sprints the last stretch between them. The burning of his lungs barely distracts him from the sharp pain in his legs, his muscles hurting from the exertion and hits they’ve taken. His sides sting and Shiro thinks, for a brief, horrifying moment, that he might fall and faint right there.
The fighters fire at him and small rocks hit Shiro’s armor, digging into the less protected places painfully, but Shiro keeps running, his legs burning in protest. He’s almost at the ship. Just a dozen or so feet anymore. He can make it.
He has to make it.
Lotor opens the doors to their ship and steps aside, and Shiro dives into the safety of the ship, rushing to close the doors while Lotor gets them up into the air and away from the enemy fire.
Shiro slumps on the floor, panting and shaking from his narrow escape, his body aching, but he’s alive and that’s all that matters. Lotor flies them away, using the speed of their ship to their advantage to dodge and weave their way to safety. Shiro closes his eyes, trusting Lotor to know what he’s doing.
“I was considering dinner this weekend,” Lotor starts, sounding just a bit too casual.
Shiro opens his eyes and turns to stare at Lotor in disbelief. “Seriously? You’re talking dinner plans right now?”
“I can multitask,” Lotor replies as he fires a shot at the missile aimed at them, taking it out easily.
Of course Lotor can; Shiro knows just how well Lotor can multitask when he wants to, but there’s a time and a place for everything. And when they’re trying to fight their way through a fleet of Altean fighters is not the place to make dinner plans. “I could go for dinner.”
“Good. I also told the others we would be a little late, so they are not concerned we’re not at the — hold on.”
Shiro grabs a hold of the nearest bolted down object — a handle, fittingly, meant to ease moving in zero grav — a fraction of a second before Lotor performs an impressive barrel roll while taking out the fast approaching fighter, sending Shiro into the air as he does so.
“Who the hell taught you to fly?” Shiro barks as he hits the ground again, his already hurting body flashing with pain from the sudden contact. He should really get strapped down.
“My father,” Lotor replies as he rights their ship again and flies into the vastness of the space at full speed. “Hyperdrive in five ticks.”
Shiro curses and scrambles to take his seat. He’s just gotten his seat belt on when Lotor engages the hyperdrive and the force of it pushes Shiro into his seat, just for a second, before the ship’s compensators catch up and adjust to the change in speed.
“I don’t know how we still have Voltron if that’s the case,” Shiro says. “I don’t know how we’re alive with your piloting either.”
Shiro knows why they’re alive and why they still have Voltron, of course he does; Lotor is the best pilot in their little resistance, and there’s no one — not a single person, no matter how much they might hate the Galra — that would even think about denying it.
Shiro nods and does just that.
“Where do you want to go for our dinner?” Lotor asks a mere minute later.
“You’re the local, you pick. As long as it’s not that stuff Galvak got us the other day, that was... not an experience I want to repeat,” Shiro replies.
Shiro spares Lotor a smile before closing his eyes, needing a moment to rest and deal with the dull pain thrumming through his body. It’s worth it though: the Altean ship he had blown up is a loss for Alfor, and not an entirely insignificant one at that.
They are making progress.
However small, they are making progress. That has to matter.
The thing about having Marda and Rinde around is that they stayed barely for a day before disappearing, then staying away for almost two weeks before returning without explanation, and despite the questions directed at them, they refuse to explain themselves. It becomes increasingly frustrating for Thace to deal with Marda evading all his attempts at getting her to just tell him how she is alive. That’s all he wants to know. He can deal with her and Haala making a point of ignoring each others existence if she just tells him how she is alive.
But she won’t. She refuses to say anything. She won’t even explain why she keeps hiding her tail.
“If you need medical attention —”
“I don’t. Stop worrying.” Marda flattens her ears for good measure, but Thace refuses to stop worrying about her, not when he has her there, alive again. He only wants to know if she’s well.
The only thing Marda and Rinde have volunteered is that they are a part of a resistance of some kind, fighting against Alfor the best they can. As if it’s supposed to be enough.
As if it is supposed to make it easier for Thace to tell his family that Marda is alive, after all this time. After they’d accepted that she was gone and moved on.
“I can tell Zairi when I see her,” Haala offers. “I’m going with Marzi on a mission. We’re going to see if some lieutenant friend of hers is still around, and Zairi’s staying near where we’re going, so I thought I’d say hi to her.”
Thace inclines his head. “If you’re sure. And tell her I said hi.”
“I doubt she’d appreciate that,” Haala replies. “But whatever. Aren’t Shiro and the Prince supposed to be back here soon?”
Thace takes the change in topic for what it is and confirms their arrival. “Why?”
Haala shrugs. “Just curious. I heard they were late to the rendezvous point but no one’s told me if the ship took damage.”
Thace can’t tell Haala if it has, but he almost hopes it has, for Haala’s sake; he could use a ship to fix, instead of just tinkering with his smaller projects. “I’ll let you know when they arrive.”
Haala hums in agreement, but he doesn’t try to continue their conversation. But he doesn’t leave Thace’s side either, and that’s more than enough for Thace.
Dinner, when they find the time for it, turns out to be fish in a small yet prestigious establishment in the Galran space, though the restaurant Lotor takes Shiro into isn’t Galran owned, much to Shiro’s surprise. They sit in a small corner table and Shiro never sees a menu, but a waitress with four arms brings them food and drinks minutes after they sit down nevertheless.
“I ordered for you when I meade the reservation,” Lotor explains. “You wouldn’t have known what is good and safe for you to eat.”
“I could’ve ordered my own food,” Shiro insists, but there’s no heat behind his words. “Now what?”
“Lets not discuss the current state of the universe,” Lotor replies and takes a small sip of his wine.
Suddenly Shiro feels inadequate. His table manners aren’t bad by any means, but as he watches Lotor go through the motions of inspecting his food and trying out his wine with pristine ease, he can’t help but think Lotor must be reconsidering bringing Shiro here. Shiro tests the food, acutely aware of the fact that he can’t even begin to replicate the almost delicate way Lotor handles his cutlery and glass, and to his delight it’s good. Better than good, even.
Still, Shiro has no idea how Keith handled dining with Zarkon every day, and he’d welcome some advice on the matter.
“You need not try so hard,” Lotor says quietly, almost softly. “I would rather you be yourself.”
“Huh?” It’s not the most eloquent thing Shiro has ever said, and he has no problem admitting it.
“You look uncomfortable,” Lotor elaborates. “Just... educate me on human dining customs?”
Somehow it makes things easier. Shiro explains all he knows about fine dining human style, and Lotor listens to him, asking questions every now and again and making comments when appropriate. Their conversation drifts to entertainment, and soon Shiro has been roped into a heated discussion on the merits of adapting books into movies.
“They’re completely different formats and both have their benefits and downsides,” Shiro argues.
“I am aware of that. All I am saying is that if you insist on adapting a beloved story, at least have the decency to do it in a proper way,” Lotor responds. “Changing the plot or the characters to the point they are not, fundamentally, themselves is not right. It would be far better for them to call the adaptation an original work inspired by another story than claim it is an adaptation.”
Shiro can’t really argue with that, and Lotor is happy to win their little debate. And if Shiro is honest, he doesn’t mind losing when it puts that small, satisfied smile on Lotor’s face.
The rest of their dinner goes by smoothly, though Shiro can’t help but ask why Lotor had thought they should take a night off for it.
“We will be no help to anyone if we work ourselves to exhaustion. It is good to relax sometimes, and this was the most efficient way I could think of doing it quickly,” Lotor replies.
Shiro accepts Lotor’s explanation, and agrees to the dessert Lotor wants to get. By the time they’re ready to leave, Shiro feels lighter than he has in weeks. Maybe he did need a night off to unwind.
They’ve barely left the restaurant when Lotor’s comm pings, demanding his attention. Shiro gives Lotor the space he needs, directing his attention to the nearby shop with several bright bottles on its window. A minute or so later Lotor touches his elbow and heads to their ship, his expression giving nothing away.
Shiro waits until they’re in the safety of their ship before asking Lotor if something has happened.
“We lost another colony,” Lotor replies, his voice void of any emotion.
Not knowing what else to do, Shiro pulls Lotor into his arms and holds him.
Lotor takes Narti, Thace, and Marzila with him when he goes to see the colony that the Alteans had destroyed. He refuses to let any of the Paladins or Rebellion members near the few surviving Galra, and all three of them are gone for two long weeks, along with the small crew of their ship.
Haala is snappier than usual, but no one blames him for it; they’re all on edge. As long as no serious fights break out, they’ll stick to their unspoken agreement not to mention each others foul moods.
Shiro pours himself a drink, the alcohol sour in his mouth without Lotor there to keep him company. He goes over the report the druids have written him — they like their reports, Shiro has discovered, to an almost disturbing degree — even though he knows it’s nothing new. The druids have looked into possible weapons to use against the Alteans, something to counteract their cloaking abilities, how to shield from their magic, anything that might help, but they have yet to come up with anything truly effective.
Still, any progress is progress, and at least it keeps them busy and less focused on finding Haggar — their primary focus of the early days before Lotor had gotten tired of it and stepped in. They still look for her, of course, but it’s not all they do anymore. Shiro doesn’t say it out loud, but he couldn’t care less if Haggar would never surface again. As far as he’s concerned, she’s brought nothing but pain and trouble with her and they’re all better off without her.
Shaking his head, Shiro focuses on the druids’ request to go raid one of their old bases and recover equipment. The faster he gives them an answer, the better. Thinking it over, Shiro agrees to the request and starts thinking about who should go on the mission, and any additional things they might gather from the druid base.
Getting the survivors from the colony to a safe location was harder and took longer that Lotor had expected, but he had a good team with him and they succeeded in their mission. Eventually.
It was not without problems, though. They had to fight deserters of the Galran Empire and Alteans on the way, but Lotor had the loyal Galra who had come to help their people to safety, his team and — most importantly — his wits and all the knowledge and skill his father had drilled into him until Lotor performed to his impossible standards. They might have been slowed down a bit, but they were never defeated.
Was this what his father had meant when he had insisted Alteans were not the people Lotor had read about in many of his father’s old books? They are so far from kind and peaceful, attacking anyone who disagreed with them — destroying them. In Lotor’s opinion, they are worse than his father was even in his darkest moments.
Or perhaps that is an exaggeration. Lotor is not entirely sure. His father was a different kind of evil; vengeful and vicious, assuming worst of everyone and everything and seeing enemies where there were none, determined to strike them down before they struck him. At least with him, Lotor could understand where he was coming from: his father was far more concerned with protecting his people no matter the cost than anything else, while the Alteans... Lotor is not sure what they want. He cannot see reason in their destruction of everyone who does not bow before them.
And then there is Blaytz, claiming to be a friend of his father. Lotor shakes his head. That is a topic he would rather not get into. It is far too complicated, and he does not have all the facts yet.
Perhaps he never will.
“What is our ETA?” Lotor asks Thace, directing his thoughts from unbeatable enemies and people who should not be alive to more pressing matters, such as getting back to Shiro and the brief moments of distraction he offers.
“Five quarters,” Thace replies, his voice crackling over the comms. Someone ought to fix that particular issue. The ship had taken some damage during their scuffles with the rouge Galra and Alteans, and despite Lotor’s best glowering, the crew has stated they will not be able to fix all the damage before they reach their current base. But the comm issue should be dealt with; it is imperative that they have working communication channels at all times.
Lotor tells Thace as much.
“I will inform the crew of the issue and get it fixed as soon as possible,” Thace assures him.
Lotor turns off the comms and focuses on getting the rest he’d promised Narti he would get. He has been awake for two days straight, and he could do with a nap.
Of course, with Lotor’s luck, he has barely managed to close his eyes before the ship rocks violently to the left and a dozen alarms start ringing throughout the ship.
Lotor is running towards the bridge in a matter of ticks, needing to be where he can be most useful. “What happened?” He demands as soon as he reaches the bridge.
“An Altean ship,” Marzila informs him, already firing on the ship and adjusting their own shielding. “It was cloaked and it’s using some kind of long range missiles; we didn’t see it until a tick before the missile landed.”
“Not as bad as it could have been,” Thace says. “We had shields up already.”
Lotor joins Narti’s side, taking in the situation fast. “Have you called the attack in?” Narti inclines her head, just as Lotor expected her to do. “Revert power to the hyperdrive and get me manual control of the helm.”
“Sire?” Marzila turns to Lotor, confused, but not arguing his decision.
“There is a rather capricious nebula nearby, if I am not mistaken,” Lotor says as he moves to take the helm while adapting a more relaxed posture, and flashing Marzila the kind of cocky smirk that would make his father direct his worst withering glare at Lotor.
Marzila’s expression flickers from impressed to worried, until finally settling somewhere between the two. Lotor ignores her in favor of getting the ship where he wants it to be.
There is a reason manual control of anything larger than a fighter during hyperdrive, battle situations, and in dangerous environments is not recommended, but those warnings are meant for people who have not been under Zarkon’s personal tutelage for thousands of years. Lotor keeps his eyes on his screen and the arrow that shows his direction, making sure he is approaching the nebula and ignoring the sight of the space blurring around the ship as they enter their first hyperdrive jump, leaving the Altean vessel behind for now.
Most skilled pilots learn to jump manually, simply because while it is not recommended, sometimes a ship will be damaged and manual jumps are necessary. The goal is to watch a monitor and keep the tip of the arrow pointed in the desired direction while avoiding crashing into anything. Keeping the direction is the easy part. Not crashing into anything is a lot harder, and requires quick reflexes and the ability to stay calm, both of which Lotor has.
They make it to the nebula with no problems, but while the rest of the crew on the bridge takes a moment to be happy about their escape, Lotor focuses on getting through the nebula in one piece. He keeps his eyes on the windows rather than the monitors, as they will become useless the moment they enter the nebula.
The yellow and blue cloud swallows the ship whole, and the last clear signal the monitors give is a warning of the Altean ship exiting hyperdrive behind them. Lotor does not worry about it; he knows what he is doing, and though he knows not to underestimate his enemy, he does not allow himself to worry either.
The silence on the bridge is loaded and heavy as Lotor takes the ship deeper into the nebula. The cloud is just as capable of destroying the ship as the Alteans are, and Lotor is fully aware of that fact. He knows to respect the nebula, his father had made sure of it.
The Altean ship moves slower than Lotor’s, hesitation clear in its movements. Lotor smirks, but does not relax. He focuses on getting out of the nebula undetected, and once he succeeds in that, he will fire a shot into the nebula and fry the Altean ship to crisp.
Lotor takes the ship low, below the Altean one, and slowly makes his way out of the nebula the way they got in.
They almost make it before the Alteans spot them and launch a missile at them. Marzila curses and Thace scrambles to pull the shields up. Lotor dodges, but the missile going off makes the gasses of the nebula explode. The ship gets caught in the shockwave, tumbling out of Lotor’s control and careening through space.
Lotor crashes against the controls before the ship tilts and drops him on the floor head first. Narti’s tail smacks on his side when she falls while Thace hits the wall with a pained grunt. Marzila is the first one standing when the ship stills, and she rushes to the controls.
“We’ve lost hyperdrive and 87 percent of shields,” she informs the others.
Lotor grits his teeth and pushes himself up, his head pounding from coming into contact with the floor. “The Altean ship?”
“Caught in the explosion. I can’t say if it’s in one piece or not,” Marzila replies.
Lotor doesn’t hesitate before turning the autopilot back on and sets their destination before slumping back on the ground; his insides hurt too much for him to stay upright. “Get the shields fixed and comms online. We need hyperdive as soon as possible.”
“On it,” Thace replies while Narti makes her way to Lotor. She touches his shoulder, a calm spreading through Lotor for two ticks before she withdraws her hand. Lotor frowns, but doesn’t chastise her.
They have to get back to the base, and Lotor decides to focus on that rather than his injuries or Narti’s concern.
They are floating — weightless.
Adrift in nothing, a bright light surrounding them.
There is no time, no up or down or left or right. There is nothing but them, and the blinding white of the quintessence.
Keith holds Zarkon tighter, closer to himself. He’s not sure if Zarkon is conscious anymore (he’s not sure he himself is conscious anymore), but the bond hums gently, so Keith doesn’t worry.
The quintessence thrums through his veins, through his body, his mind. If Keith were to open his eyes, he’d see the quintessence pulse around him, shining brightly, full of energy he cannot begin to comprehend. But Keith is content to rest where he is. He has no need to move, no need to do anything at all but exist there, with Zarkon, in the not quite silent brightness cradling them.
It would be as close to heaven as Keith can imagine if the constant hum would stop. It’s almost like a conversation held without words, shifts in the quintessence, a mood here, and feeling there. It is a language Keith is familiar with, but one he can’t understand. It’s far more complex than anything he and Zarkon have ever tried with their bond; there’s a melody to it, a complexity Keith can only admire from afar.
Keith’s attention drifts from the hum of conversation to Zarkon. He likes having his attention on Zarkon. It’s easier than trying to understand the hum echoing around him.
Keith buries his face in Zarkon’s neck, and lets himself get lost in their bond.
Okay so right now I'm working on this and another fic for a different ship, and I'm gonna be frank, due to time constraints I'm gonna prioritize one over the other, most likely based on just how many people are engaging with each fic. Not trying to get anyone to feel like they have to engage, but since I'm starting uni soon and I have to move, and I'm probably gonna be opening commissions so that I can fund said move, I'm busy. Basically the update schedule is going to be slower for one fic and faster for the other, that's all. Don't worry about it, just be aware that the updates might not be as fast as they normally are.
And as always, I'm on twitter, where I'm gonna be posting news on updates and such.
Shiro doesn’t panic, exactly. His heart does drop when he hears Lotor’s ship is under attack, and he worries, but the world continues moving as it should and when the news that the situation is over arrive, Shiro returns to studying the latest updates on the Galran civil war (not that anyone dares to call it that in front of the Galra).
Some warlord has claimed another star system, and two are fighting over another one with little to no care about the civilians and non-Galrans getting trampled. It’s depressing to read, but Shiro manages, and once he’s done he updates their maps and files.
After that’s done, he gets late lunch with Pidge, Hunk and Sam. They don’t talk much, but it’s comfortable, and they could all use a bit of comfortable these days.
Sallo and Coran arrange for Lotor’s ship to be towed back to the base, while Shiro busies himself with going over their current plan to gather more supplies with Kolivan.
By the time Lotor arrives it’s closer to midnight, but Shiro has stayed up. He hasn’t been waiting as much as he’s been working, but seeing Ezor and Narti hovering near Lotor as they slowly make their way into the base eases the tightness around Shiro’s chest. His eyes meet Lotor’s, and the minute softening of Lotor’s expression makes Shiro breathe easier. Lotor returns his attention back to Ezor, and Shiro returns to his room, ready to call it a night.
Shiro is already in bed when a familiar soft knock on the door drags him out from under the covers. He wasn’t asleep yet, so he doesn’t mind; he’d just prepared for the possibility that Lotor would stay away after all he’s been through. Though maybe he should have assumed that Lotor, being a Galra and the Galra being social creatures, would seek out company.
Shiro smiles as he opens the door and lets Lotor in. “Rough day?”
“Is it that obvious?” Lotor slumps on the nearest chair. “I must be losing my touch.”
“ No, I’m just guessing.” Shiro grabs the bottle of liquor from the shelf, two glasses, and joins Lotor by the table. Lotor doesn’t look convinced, but he accepts the glass Shiro hands him and stays quiet.
“Are you staying the night?” Shiro asks a minute later, breaking the comfortable silence.
Lotor sighs and tips his head back, his hair, matted with blood, falling from his shoulders. “If you insist.”
Shiro smiles into his glass and nods. He wants to ask about the blood, about the tense way Lotor moves and why he holds his left hand so close to his body. But he doesn’t, not tonight. It’s late and Lotor is too tired, and Shiro would rather not deal with Lotor’s snarkier side.
“Go ahead,” Lotor says, and Shiro wants to curse. Of course Lotor has to pick up on his desire to ask about his injuries. he can probably smell it on Shiro or something — like a Galra thing. Or maybe it’s something he inherited from Zarkon. That’d make sense.
“Are you hurt or did you just forget to wash the blood away?”
“It’s a scratch, I will live. My insides will heal and my wrist is not broken,” Lotor replies. “It is nothing that warrants wasting our limited resources.”
Shiro frowns, downs the last of his drink, and gets up. He fetches the first aid kit he keeps for minor injuries from his closet and brings it to Lotor. “Strip.”
“I am really not in the mood right now,” Lotor retorts, and Shiro shoots him a withering glare in return. Lotor’s smile fades and he sighs, but he stands and takes his clothes off, revealing the massive bruising on his middle, creating an afterimage of the edge of the console Lotor had crashed into. Shiro winces in sympathy, and gets to work.
Lotor remains still while Shiro patches him up, only speaking when Shiro addresses him directly, answering questions about pains and aches, assuring Shiro he’s not hurting Lotor. Once he’s done with Lotor’s injuries, Shiro gets a wet towel and rubs the dried blood from Lotor’s face and hair. The blood in Lotor’s hair has matted and caked, and though Shiro gets most of it off, it leaves Lotor’s hair with a faint, pink tinge.
“You ever consider getting highlights?” Shiro asks just to get a rise out of Lotor.
“No. My hair is perfect the way it is,” Lotor replies, narrowing his eyes just as Shiro had hoped he would. Shiro smiles and guides Lotor to bed, and they settle in, side by side, not exactly cuddling, but not trying to keep distance either.
Lotor agrees to let Narti go with the druids to gather equipment from a base. She gets along with them surprisingly well, and though Lotor is wary of her spending time with them he allows it, simply because it makes Narti happy to be around people who do not grow uncomfortable around her and her abilities.
Giving Ezor permission to go on a mission with Lance is a little harder, but he does that as well. Ezor will get too antsy if she does not get to run around every now and again, after all.
While his generals are busy on their missions, Lotor focuses on the safety of his people. He would go and reclaim the throne if he could, but no matter how much he looks into it, he cannot find a way to accomplish that goal. And even if he managed to get to the throne, there is no guarantee the Galra would follow him. In fact, going by Lotor’s short go at being the Emperor, the Galra were far more likely to kill him on sight.
But he has to do something to help his people. He has to.
As soon as he figures out how.
“Problem?” Kolivan’s voice snaps Lotor out of his head, but he does not show it.
“No.” Lotor turns to Kolivan, taking care to not reveal anything, pulling up the mask of casual confidence and ease. “Everything is fine.”
Kolivan studies Lotor, and Lotor studies him. They have little trust in each other and they are both aware of it, but they have respect for each other as leaders, and they are capable of working together rather well when their interests line up. It is the same with Lotor and the Rebellion and Paladins as well; they are all forced into this impossible situation, and their only chance of survival is to work together and have some trust in each other.
But there are limits to that trust, and Lotor does not trust or like Kolivan enough to share his thoughts.
“Did you want something?”
Kolivan’s ears twitch minutely and the line of his mouth hardens, but it is gone in a blink of an eye. Lotor sees it, though, and he makes a mental note of it. “My people have a few ideas on how to help the civilians caught in the Empire’s infighting.”
His people. Lotor almost scoffs. He almost asks if the Galra living within the Empire are somehow beneath Kolivan and his ideals, but he swallows the words down and forces his face to smile. “I doubt they have anything new to offer.” Lotor practically sees the scowl his father would throw at him for the hint of snark in his voice, but he does not care.
Kolivan, to his credit, does not react. “We have a lot of experience with avoiding the Empire’s military. It gives us a unique perspective I fear you lack.”
Lotor’s eyebrows climb up without his permission, and he huffs a quiet, cold laugh. What does Kolivan know of Lotor’s perspective? A traitor to the Empire has no place even considering his opinion is worth anything to Lotor, much less that he should voice it. And yet here Kolivan is, thinking he knows better than Lotor.
“I meant no offense,” Kolivan says. “Simply that we have different experiences, and they might be of benefit to you.”
“You claim you care about the people and I am supposed to believe that when you and your people, as you call them, want to see the Empire fall?” Lotor cocks his head. “I have no interest in hearing your opinions.”
Kolivan frowns. “We don’t want the Empire to fall, just... the way it is, the quintessence harvesting and how the Empire treats anyone not Galra, it is not right. You must know that.”
“You have no right to decide what is right for my people,” Lotor counters.
Kolivan looks ready to argue, but he stands down, inclining his head curtly. “Of course. But, should you desire another perspective on the matter, we are at your disposal. We have no desire to see civilians harmed and we would like to help if we can.” With that, Kolivan leaves.
Lotor tries not to feel like he had just failed in some manner. Kolivan had only wished to help, after all. Perhaps Lotor can talk to him later, approach him casually and inquire after his ideas.
Or he could get Shiro to do it for him. That might work better.
Lance follows Ezor, trying to move as quietly as she does to no avail. He comforts himself by deciding it’s a Galra thing, and there is no way he could ever move as quietly as she does.
“This way.” Ezor bolts behind the crates, skillfully dodging the searchlights. Lance watches her go, impressed and crushing just a bit. Not the I’m-in-love kind of a crush, mind you, but... she’s pretty awesome. In a platonic friend way.
Lance follows Ezor less gracefully, but he still manages to dodge the searchlights. Ezor snickers, grinning at Lance, and continues on her way. Lance scrambles after her, wondering once again how he got roped into infiltrating the Galran mining base.
And why a mining base? What could be so important that they had to go there? Lance curses himself for not demanding more details, for allowing his need for some excitement to get the better of him.
“We’re almost there,” Ezor whispers as she comes to a halt behind a row of large crates. Lance crouches next to her, peering through the small gap between the crates at the gates into the mines.
“What’s in there?” Lance asks as he calculates the distance from where they are to the gates.
Ezor grins. “Something fun.”
Lance considers arguing or at least questioning her further, but decides to trust her judgment. She’s the one who dragged him here in the first place, so she should know what they’re going to be up against. “So what’s the plan?”
“The plan is that you put those sniper skills of yours to good use as soon as you start hearing screams and shots. I sneak in and do a little thieving. I’ll get in without a problem, but getting out is when you’re gonna cover me. Okay?”
Lance studies Ezor’s carefree, confident smile, the casual tilt of her head, and the ease she’s at before nodding slowly. “Okay.”
Ezor helps Lance find a good spot to hide and observe the yard teeming with sentries, Galra, and to Lance’s horror, prisoners the Galra are watching closely. Lance grits his teeth, considering shooting the Galra and saving the prisoners.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Ezor says, seemingly reading Lance’s mind. “You get to shoot when I’m in the clear, okay? If you risk my life Lotor and the others are going to rip you to shreds.”
Lance narrows his eyes. He could do without the threats, he’s not stupid. He knows opening fire without a plan would be dangerous. Even if he considered it just now. “I can do this.”
“Lets hope so.” Ezor disappears, vanishing into thin air before Lance’s eyes, and if Lance wasn’t so stunned by it he’d tell Ezor that he’s perfectly capable of completing any task given to him, thank you very much.
Lance grumbles and settles in, his bayard forming into a sniper rifle with ease. He takes aim, pushing his anger aside and focusing on the mission at hand.
Most people are surprised by it, but Lance is good at waiting when he needs to be. He has to be: you can’t be a sniper if you don’t have the patience to stay still and wait. He searches for targets while he waits, not because he wants to start shooting ahead of schedule, but to see where the guards and sentries are and to calculate trajectories.
Fifteen minutes later alarms blare to life and the Galra and sentries spring to action.
“Help!” Ezor calls over the comms, not sounding at all like she actually needs help. But Lance doesn’t care, he takes aim, and starts shooting the sentries down. The prisoners take the opportunity to run and Lance covers their escape as much as he can.
Ezor bursts into the yard, riding a motorcycle, much to Lance’s surprise. He gawks at the sight, watching Ezor run over a sentry without a care in the world.
“Get your ass moving!” Ezor yells over the comms, and Lance starts before jumping down from his high place, the jets of his armor firing and propelling him forward. He rolls when he lands, and sprints towards Ezor. He hops behind her, clinging to her with all he has as she speeds away from the mine. A shot rings over their head, and Lance holsters his bayard and steals Ezor’s weapon, firing over his shoulder at anyone who tries to chase them.
Their journey to their ship is not long, and they’re up in the air and flying away in a matter of minutes. Ezor grins at Lance, and Lance has a hard time not grinning back.
“Why did we steal a bike?” Lance still asks, despite the joyous excitement Ezor has infected him with.
“Because it’s awesome,” Ezor replies. “And because it’s useful. Fast, easy to maneuver, and most importantly, it’s ours.”
Lance nods. A bike would definitely be useful. They could use a way to move fast on ground, especially now that they need every advantage they can get. “Do I get to ride it?”
Ezor laughs. “Maybe. We’ll have to see if you’ve got what it takes first.”
Lance stands a little taller, puffing his chest. “Of course I do! Just you wait, I’m gonna blow your mind with my amazing bike riding skills.”
“Can’t wait.” Ezor smiles, chuckling quietly, and heads towards the bridge with Lance rushing after her.
Shiro and Thace corner Marda and Rinde the next time they come to the base. Haala and Marzila had invented a mission out of thin air and taken a small team on it, and Kolivan and Lotor are in the process of discovering just how well two people can avoid each other in their small base. The Rebellion agents with them are focused on their tasks, along with the druids, and Blaytz has retreated back into the lake.
It left the base unusually quiet, and gave Thace and Shiro the perfect opening to get some answers. They trap Marda and Rinde in a small room, and Thace leans against the door for good measure, making it clear no one is leaving until he says so.
“This is pointless,” Marda sighs, crossing her arms and giving Thace an annoyed look.
“If you’d explain where you’ve been for the past two decades, I wouldn’t have to trap you,” Thace counters. Rinde and Shiro exchange looks, both uncomfortable being there when the siblings argue. “Now start talking,” Thace demands.
Marda huffs, her ears flicking. Thace stares at her, and eventually Marda’s shoulders slump. “I don’t... we studied a micro rift, turns out it was a corridor the Alteans of the other universe had burrowed. I got into an escape pod before the ship was torn to shreds, and the pod fell through the corridor. That’s it.”
“Not that it’s my business, but why didn’t you ever try to contact them again?” Shiro nods towards Thace. “I mean, they’re your family.”
Marda’s face twitches. She turns her back on Thace and Shiro, and doesn’t answer. Eventually Rinde sighs. “They’ll find out eventually.”
Marda shrugs, wrapping her arms tighter around herself.
“I’ll give them the short version?” Rinde waits until Marda shrugs again before turning to Shiro and Thace. “So, short version: the Alteans caught her, ran a few... tests. I was undercover in that base, got caught, a few less than great things happened and we escaped.”
Rinde looks down, his eyes haunted. He shakes himself, looking back up, but his mile doesn’t reach his eyes. “We came to this reality to hide, but the Alteans were following us so we had to keep moving. We actually hid on your planet for a while.” Rinde nods at Shiro, who raises an eyebrow in return.
“Yeah. Nice place. We were on this warm desert, with a city nearby. I had a lot of fun going to the mall and people watching. You’re not bad people.” Rinde smiles at the memory for a moment before growing serious again. “We kind of stole something so we had to leave eventually, and we’ve been moving ever since. We’re on good terms with the Resistance in the other universe, actually. If you want, I’m sure they’d like to meet up with you. They could help you, you could help them, right?”
“Sure,” Shiro agrees.
Thace crosses his arms. “What did you steal?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Marda says, her voice quiet.
Shiro frowns. “Did you leave what you stole on Earth, by any chance?”
Marda and Rinde exchange looks.
Thace pushes himself off the door. “The Blue Lion?”
Marda turns around, genuine surprise on her face. “It was on Earth?”
Thace tilts his head, confusion taking over his expression. “Yes. You didn’t know? Then what did you...”
“Keith,” Shiro says quietly, as if speaking too loudly might bring forth trouble. “He’s half Galra, half Altean, and there are no Alteans here, so it’d make sense he came from the other reality — at least on one side of the family. And Alfor was way too interested in him. At the time I thought it was just because of Keith’s connection to Zarkon, but... if you... I mean, if Alfor knew he existed and wanted him, then that’d make sense too. That Alfor would want him.”
Not to mention Rinde’s markings are almost identical to Keith’s. Which would mean...
Thace’s eyes widen, his attention shifting between Shiro, Marda and Rinde slowly. “Did you... did you steal Keith?”
“I’m guessing that’s one way of putting it.” Shiro levels Rinde and Marda with a hard look. “Blaytz says there are no Galra in the other universe, and that Alfor wanted a specific kind of a child that needed both Galran and Altean blood, and one of those things from the rift. What I don’t get is how you got him to look like human.”
“Easy, really,” Rinde says a little too fast. “When you know genetics and steal a travel sized embryonic tank and a ship with enough scientific equipment, you can do a lot. The fact that Altean genes are easy to manipulate was an added bonus.”
“It was the best way to hide him,” Marda says so quietly Shiro almost misses it. She keeps her gaze fixed on the floor, and Rinde steps to stand in front of her just a bit too casually.
Shiro nods and glances at Thace who is, understandably, at a loss for words. “He’s my best friend,” Shiro says. “I’m sure he’ll —”
Thace raises a hand, opening and closing his mouth a few times. “Hold on, so you are — Keith is... you are his... parents?”
“Not by choice,” Marda says.
“But we were happy to have him nonetheless,” Rinde adds in a hurry.
Thace silences Rinde by lifting a finger, his ears flat as he frowns at the floor. “You are saying Keith is family?”
Oh, right, the Galra and their families. Shiro nods to himself and steps aside; this is one conversation that he has no place in, Keith’s best friend or not.
“Yes,” Marda confirms without looking at Thace.
Thace huffs and rubs his eyes. “Great. Just great.” He sighs and drops his hands. “This is going to be fun to explain to Haala.”
Marda turns to Thace, her eyes wide. “You can’t tell him. Not... just don’t tell anyone.”
Thace frowns. “Why not?”
“Because it’s not your place to share details of my personal life!” Thace stares at Marda, and she stares right back at him, her eyes pleading, her shoulders set in determination.
“Haala knows Keith,” Thace argues. “I arranged for him to be the one to be put in charge of Keith when the Empire caught him, and he still thinks it’s his job to look after him. I cannot, in good conscience, keep this from him.”
“Well, you’re going to have to. This is not yours to share. I will tell him and the others when I’m ready, okay?” Thace looks ready to argue, and Marda’s face hardens. “ Okay? ”
“Okay,” Thace grumbles. “Fine. Just... don’t keep things from me . I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on with you.”
Marda relaxes. “I’ll try.” She turns to Shiro. “Do you want to get in touch with the Resistance? We’ve already told them about your group, and they are open to the idea.”
Shiro nods. “Okay. We’ll meet them. I’ll talk to Lotor about it, but I’m sure he’ll agree.” He glances between Marda and Thace. “I’ll... leave you to talk. I need to go over this whole Resistance thing with Lotor.” He offers Rinde a nod and heads for the door.
Rinde makes quick excuses and hurries after Shiro, catching up to him in the hallway. “I can clear things up and answer questions,” he explains.
“Sure,” Shiro replies. They both know it’s an excuse to get away from Marda and Thace while they talk, but it’s one Shiro is more than happy to indulge in. The two deserve their privacy while they talk, after all.
Convincing Lotor that meeting with the Resistance of the other reality is easy. A lot easier than Shiro expected, in fact, and he had thought Lotor would agree to it. “We could use the help,” Lotor reasons. “And they have fought the Alteans longer than we have.”
Of course Lotor would be logical about it.
“So, I’ll tell our people you want to meet them?” Rinde asks, his gaze darting from Lotor to Shiro.
“Yes,” Shiro confirms. “Thank you.”
Rinde nods and leaves Shiro and Lotor, saying he’ll be in the kitchen should anyone need him. Once he’s gone, Shiro turns to Lotor. “You think this is a good idea?”
“It is something. If nothing else we might gain a better understanding of how they travel between the realities.”
Shiro nods slowly. “And if we understand that, we might be able to pull Keith and Zarkon from the rift.”
Lotor smiles and inclines his head. “Precisely.”
They sit down, coming up with things they should ask the Resistance, and what their conditions to working with them should be. Neither of them is willing to blindly trust the Resistance, but they can build trust.
“We should ask Blaytz if he knows anything about the Resistance,” Shiro suggests. “He might have some insight to offer.”
Lotor inclines his head. “You do that. I do not like cutting this short, but I have to contact Acxa and debrief her.”
Shiro stands and heads to the door. “Do you know where he is?” If Blaytz is in the bottom of the lake again, Shiro will have to figure out what he’s going to do while he waits for Blaytz to resurface.
“I believe he is assisting Hunk in some Lion related thing. I did not pay that much attention to their conversation.” Shiro doesn’t buy it — Lotor always pays attention to everything — but he nods and heads to the hangar they keep the Yellow Lion anyways, leaving Lotor to contact Acxa in peace.
Blaytz is there with Hunk, just as Lotor had said, and Shiro clears his throat before approaching them. Hunk smiles at Shiro and sets his pad down on the crate he’s dragged to the feet of the Lion.
“What are you doing?” Shiro asks as a greeting.
“Blaytz was just telling me what he knows about Voltron maintenance. Since we don’t have access to the Castleship anymore,” Hunk replies.
Blaytz smiles that kind, unassuming smile of his that Shiro is starting to think is a mask he hides behind. “It’s nothing, really. Just sharing what little information I have.”
“Well, I could use some information too,” Shiro says. “If you’ve got the time.”
Hunk and Blaytz glance at each other before Blaytz nods slowly. “I can spare you a moment or two.”
“I’ll go see if Coran needs help with dinner in the mean time,” Hunk says. He stretches his arms, his shoulders popping. “We can continue this later?”
“Of course,” Blaytz agrees before turning to Shiro. “What can I do for you?”
Shiro moves out of Hunk’s way and watches him drudge away before returning his attention to Blaytz. “We’ve been thinking about meeting up with the Resistance of the other reality. Do you know anything about them?”
Blaytz frowns, thoughtful. “I know of them. It wasn’t a big movement when I was still there, but they’re a tight group of people, kind of like your Rebellion. I’ve had dealings with some of their operatives, but I’ve never gotten deep in with them.”
Shiro crosses his arms and leans against the Lion’s leg while Blaytz moves the pads on the crate aside and hops to sit on it. “Do you think they can be trusted?”
“To a degree,” Blaytz replies. “Their goals are not your goals, and their methods are different. They are not going to be happy if you go in and try to get them to join your cause or change their methods to fit yours, but if you want intel from the other side or occasional help, they’re good for that. Just keep in mind that they are from another reality. Different rules and all that.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Right now we could use all the help we can get, and intel on what the Alteans are doing on that side of the rift would be useful.” Shiro bites his lip. He wants to ask Blaytz about the experiments Alfor had ran. If Keith... Shiro shakes his head; he doesn’t want to think about that right now.
“Is something wrong?” Blaytz asks.
Shiro meets his eyes and forces himself to relax. “No. No, I’m just tired. There’s a lot going on.”
Blaytz studies Shiro, and for a moment he looks like he’s about to question Shiro further, but he opts to not do so. Instead he leans back and nods. “Make sure you ask the Resistance about any rift activity they might have detected. If we’re lucky, the rift spit Keith and Zarkon out on the other side or they’ve managed to get out on their own.”
“You think they could do that?”
Blaytz merely smiles. “They have the Black Lion and each other, I have no doubt they could save themselves if they’re in a position to do so.” He hops down from the crate and straightens his clothes. “And besides, Zarkon can out stubborn anything. The rift doesn’t know what its dealing with if it tries to keep him for longer than he wants to stay.”
There’s something wistful in Blaytz’s expression as he gets lost in his thoughts. Shiro waits in silence for Blaytz to return his attention to the world around him. When he does, Shiro pushes himself off the Lion and starts walking towards the doors, with Blaytz by his side. To cheer the mood up, Shiro asks Blaytz about when he’s planning on going on his next information gathering mission. “I think you’ve gotten Matt hooked on that sticky candy goo you brought him a few weeks back.”
Blaytz laughs. “I’ll have to get more of it, then. And more liquor for you and Lotor, I imagine.” He levels Shiro with a knowing look, and Shiro fights off a blush.
“It’s not —“
“Please, I’m too old to care who you’re sleeping with. Just make sure it doesn’t start affecting your operations.” Blaytz frowns, tilting his head. “You should be more concerned about Zarkon. Galra can get homicidally protective of their children, and I can’t imagine he likes you very much after you’ve piloted his Lion and slept with Keith.”
Shiro stops in the middle of the corridor, all color drained form his face. He hadn’t thought about that. Why hadn’t he thought about that? Why had he not spared even a second to consider the fact that Lotor is Zarkon’s son, and Zarkon hates Shiro. He’ll murder Shiro in some imaginative way if he ever comes back, and no one is ever going to find Shiro’s body. If there’s going to be a body left to find.
Blaytz continues on his way, oblivious to Shiro’s sudden distress. “Who knows, maybe you’ll catch him in a good mood and he won’t mind you bedding his only child. Maybe he won’t care. Stranger things have happened.”
Shiro lets out a strangled laugh and hurries to catch up with Blaytz. “You think I shouldn’t be with Lotor.”
“That’s not what I said,” Blaytz point out, glancing at Shiro. “I think you two are good for each other. Just... don’t use him as... what was the term Lance used? Rebound for Keith. I have no doubt Lotor and Keith can keep Zarkon from maiming you, but that’s only if you don’t use Lotor and toss him aside the first chance you get.”
Shiro doesn’t bother hiding how offended Blaytz’s words make him. “I’d never do that.”
“Then you should have nothing to worry about.” Blaytz offers Shiro a bright smile. Shiro rolls his eyes and walks a little faster.
Allura crawls through the maintenance shaft, following the mice leading her way. She’d been so glad to see them again, as they had disappeared shortly after the other Alteans had arrived. On hindsight, they had been the smart ones. Again.
The maintenance shaft isn’t as comfortable as Allura had thought it would be when she’d entered it; it seems almost impractical in its tightness. How are people supposed to work in these conditions?
Allura reaches another junction, and she takes great care to follow the mice as quietly as she can. She’d accidentally kicked the walls at an earlier junction, and she has no doubt that if someone was in the vicinity, they heard it and she’s racing against time. She just needs to get one more floor down.
As soon as she clears the turn, she moves just a bit faster in case the guards in the corridors have informed that... man wearing her father’s face of any strange sounds coming from the walls.
How had she not seen the truth immediately? She should have. It should have been obvious to her that whoever the man claiming to be her father is, he’s most definitely not her father.
But she had wanted him to be. That desire to have her father back had burned away everything else, and now everyone is paying for it. Allura girts her teeth and vows to herself that she will remedy the situation, no matter what. She is not going to allow anyone to suffer for her mistakes.
Allura is so lost in thought that she doesn’t register the vent she just crawled over opening until it hits the ground below and a strong hand wraps around her ankle. Allura kicks and tries to drag herself away, but she’s pulled through the opening and onto the corridor floor. She lands with a pained grunt, glaring at the guards standing around her. Their weapons are drawn, but they won’t hurt Allura without a direct order and Allura knows it.
Allura bolts to her feet and makes a run for it, only to have Hira smash the butt of her rifle against her face with enough force to knock her back down. Allura’s vision swims, blood dripping to the floor from her nose and split lip.
“What do we do with her?” One of the guards asks, a hint of frustration in his voice. It makes Allura smirk, though she keeps her eyes to the ground; better not give them any more reasons to view her as an enemy.
Hira shifts, her eyes burning against the back of Allura’s head. “Put her in a cell for now. She will be safe there until we can secure her room.” No one mentions the unspoken again , and Allura doesn’t say there’s nothing that can keep her from escaping again. She has a goal, and she intends to achieve it, no matter what.
The guards take her to the cell, not bothering to give her anything for her bleeding nose and lip. It’s all they can do to her without the man pretending to be Alfor growing angry at them.
Allura holds her head high as she’s walked into the cell, and the door is locked behind her. She doesn’t give the guards the satisfaction of seeing her falter, not even for a tick. She keeps up the quiet, dignified front as she sits down, fully aware of the cameras on her.
It takes a varga for the fake Alfor to make his way to Allura, the disappointment on his face too much like that of a father disappointed with his child. It’s not real, Allura reminds herself. “These escapades of yours must end,” Alfor says, as if he has any right to tell Allura what to do. “You are making it difficult for us to focus on what matters.”
“And what is that?” Allura demands.
Alfor shakes his head, his smile empty. “We have been through this already. You are not going to drag me into another argument about what you consider to be right and wrong. I am doing what is best for the universe, as we as Alteans are supposed to do. It’s our duty, and I would hope my own daughter would at least see the truth.”
Allura wants to yell, to scream and deny any relation to this man, but she keeps her mouth shut. Fighting was what got her locked in her room in the first place, and she doesn’t need any more restrictions placed on her at that moment.
When it becomes clear Allura is not going to continue the discussion, Alfor nods once and leaves her alone with her thoughts.
I'm doing commissions on twitter so I'm gonna be focusing mainly on that and apartment hunting for a while (because moving at a short notice is super expensive and stressful), but I'm gonna try to squeeze in an update at some point.
I hope you liked this!