“Okay, we’re going to begin the first test. Are you two ready?” Pidge sat behind a bulletproof glass shield. Her glasses sat on the top of her head in favor of her goggles being pulled down. Her hair was tied into an unexplainably tight bun, and the coat that laid across her shoulders was a bit baggy.
Lance couldn’t help but see a spitting image of Matt staring them down.
“Ready as ever,” Keith responded from somewhere beside him, pulling his attention. Turning around, Lance took inventory. On his right, he spotted the familiar white, red, and black suit that stood out from the rest of the crowd.
Keith stood proudly, a sword drawn at his side. The helmet he wore was bulky, the protective glass already pulled down. He spared a glance Lance’s way, his lips curled upward just the slightest. In a blink of an eye, the glass glowed red, settling into a tinted black, and Lance could no longer make out Keith’s face.
Behind him stood several others. Their suits varied, from the white and orange armor that the cadets from the new Garrison Tech were obliged to wear, to sleek black suits that the just graduated cadets from the Marmora Academy wore.
They all wore similar helmets to what Keith had. They looked like the old Voltron Paladin helmet, however, they were all black, and there was a protective barrier at the mouth.
“Lance, are you ready?” Pidge called out again.
Signaling the cadets behind him to put down their glass, they nodded at his instruction, bowing their heads as their glass flew up, all glowing with a blue hue before settling to a black tint.
Turning back to face the glass, Lance put his own glass barrier down. “Ready Pidge!”
“Okay.” With that, she took a seat, making a few gestures to the fellow scientists that sat beside her. “I’m going to go over the instructions once more before we start. The room before you guys will transform into a randomly generated battlefield, you will need to dodge the obstacles that come your way while fighting the following bots. There will be a map sent randomly to one of you cadets. Your mission is to find the distress signal, get the supplies needed, and use the escape pods to extract them. The simulator will end on it’s own at that point.”
The glass before them transformed, a holo screen taking its place. They could no longer see the scientists on the other side as several profiles popped up in front of them. There were several images of bots Lance had seen time and time again, from the old galran senteries, to the drones that once roamed Earth’s surface, and finally, several different galran looking beings. Under each image was a small description of the bots, their attack damage, and in small Altean text, another description.
“What we’re testing here though, is the laser we were able to abstract from the cruizer that was taken down near the newly constructed side of Altea. We were able to run some simple tests on its effects, and from what we know, it’s a simple high-powered blaster. It will be situated on a helm of a speed cruizer. Your job is to find it’s weakness and take it down. Collect its pieces and bring them to the escape pod as well. If one of you is to be hit with it, stay calm, and take the mandatory precautions you all learned in training. We are unsure of its effects on humans and galras.”
At her words, Lance’s stomach dropped. After twenty-something years of fighting an intergalactic war, and then proceeding to learn more about the universe, you’d think he wouldn’t be so surprised and scared about the unknown possibilities.
In all fairness, Lance still thought none of this ever got any easier.
Although the war had ended years ago, they were still fighting to bring peace to the galaxy and to reform a new Altean-Human empire. They were still trying to unfold new information to create better technology and were still preparing soldiers to protect their newly formed societies.
The Galran Empire had been taken down several years ago now, several years since Allura’s sacrifice. Since then, the Galran Empire had been transformed by Kolivan and Krolia. They worked to undo the thousands of years of harm and damage their species had done. However, there were still groups out there that still believed in Honvera, Zarkon, and Lotor’s ways.
They got labeled the extremists.
Although more than three-quarters of the universe was more than compliant with the newly founded peace that Voltron wished to bring and spread, there were still some that fought against it.
The new generation of soldiers from Garrison Tech and Marmora Academy were being taught how to fight back against these harmful resistances, and Lance and Keith found themselves being front and center of helping them.
“Test will begin in one minute,” Pidge’s voice rang.
Lance looked around them, his hand hovering over his hip. The holo screen that once was there in front of the glass disappeared, behind it, a simple white wall appearing.
Around them, the room began to transform, shift, and explode with color. As if entering a VR game, the terrain around them began to change, and before Lance could blink, he was smack dab in the middle of a battlefield.
Around him, buildings were burning. Smoke, fire, and haze seemed to go on for miles. The dirt under his boots felt unsteady and uneasy like he was stepping on a lumpy and curved planet.
There was no sound other than the communication lines from the cadets on the training deck activating.
“Test initiating in 10...”
The words in bright blue hovered in front of them, and the count down started.
“Commander McClain,” a cadet behind him addressed.
“It seems like we’ve been put on a planet with low oxygen and an unsteady foundation.”
“The planet’s tectonic plates are collapsing,” another added on.
“We have fifteen minutes.”
“Good work cadets,” Keith shouted from beside him.
Around them, everything began to creak. A building to their far left was started to collapse, and all that could be heard through the training room’s speakers was metal on metal colliding.
Smoke was rising and beyond that, Lance could make out the faint outline of drones.
“The map to the escape pods has been sent.”
Looking back over his shoulder, Lance saw his cadets with their holo screens activated to the training room’s system. The system feed them the information needed as if this was an actual mission.
In front of them stood Keith, already in a combat position. His holo screen was on, illuminating from the side of his helmet rather than his suit’s arm piece like the cadets.
Keith turned his head slightly. If it hadn’t been for the dark tint of his helmet, Lance would have been sure they were making eye contact. Instead, Keith gave a simple curt nod his way.
He always did.
“Training session AG785 has begun. Test One of the Alnortality Ray.”
And with that, the cadets around him took off, running ahead of him and Keith. Waiting a moment to allow them to gain some ground on them, Lance followed suit after them, Keith at his side.
“Cadets, who has the map?” Lance questioned, flicking his hand at his thigh. The familiar weight of his bayard set firmly in his hand, keeping its regular form.
In front of him, a black-suited hand raised. “Cadet Aldi, sir!” A boy shouted.
“Okay, Aldi. Lead the way. Where are we going?” Keith questioned him.
“We’re going to go straight between these buildings, there are a few drones. We’re going to take a right after we pass the glass building, and just keep going straight. The supplies should be situated at the bottom of a green and orange building. No sight on the cruiser yet.”
Not another word was spoken. Like clockwork, the cadets made their way through the street, followed by Lance and Keith. From behind the cadets, you could see their articulated work. They took their turns covering one another, firing at the bots in front of them and warning each other of falling debris.
It reminded Lance of how it was in the early years of Voltron. Although it was stressful then, he loved the adrenalin rushes, and lord, had he missed it.
Although, where he was right now in his life.
He wouldn’t trade it for the world.
At some point, Lance found himself forming his Altean Broad sword, taking a few slashes at drones that the cadets had missed. At his side, Keith was working on shooting down the drones that flew above them.
He stumbled over his feet, trying to keep a straight aim while running. Even when he stood still while shooting, he never really had the best aim. Surely it was nothing that compared to Lance’s on-point accuracy, but he was getting better at it.
Lance admired his determination.
In all honesty, he admired everything about Keith. That was no secret at this point.
“Right!” Aldi shouted at the front of the formation.
The cadets strafed, all making a beeline for the right. Their shields were now up, their long-range weapons were taken out.
“Cruiser is spotted up ahead. What is our next course of action?”
Through his helmet’s target locker, Lance saw the cruiser. An old galra sentry sat in the cockpit, and it was coming straight at them at a high speed. Looking down at the nose of the cruiser, he saw the blaster.
It’s exterior was a neon blue. Sparks of electricity illuminated from its sides.
“Snipers, take aim for the sentry. Everyone else, aim for its blaster. As Pidge said, we have no idea of its effects. We take no chance here.” Keith shouted out the orders, pausing once he took out the last drone that hovered above them.
Their cadet’s form broke as they stopped in the middle of the road. They set their shields in front of them as the snippers made it to the front, getting to their knees and aiming right at the cruiser.
Their blasts were on time with each other's, making their fire more effective.
At his side, Keith nudged at his shield.
“I’m not entirely trusting of that new laser. It’s unlike Pidge to not know a lot about a new weapon before putting it into the training simulator,” Keith explained, his helmet bobbing as he spoke.
Lance let the words sink into him. It was unlike Pidge to do something like that. Although it is a test, after all, she would usually test it on something other than the cadets first.
And from how the blaster was glowing, it seemed to be Altean tech.
“I have to agree with you on that one,” Lance nodded. “I don’t feel comfortable with the cadets touching it.”
“Let’s go after the cruiser, once they take down the sentry the cruiser should shut off. We can dismantle the laser.”
“Okay, let’s do this.”
The two of them split up, taking two different sidewalks up the street as they made it toward the cruiser. The cadets were still firing at it, and the sentry had yet to be taken down.
As shots whistled by Lance’s head, he pulled his shield to the side of his head, looking over to Keith and motioning for him to do the same.
At first, Keith shook his head, his right hand busy holding his bayard. Lance couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
At one particularly loud blast, he heard the engine of the cruiser cut.
Looking back up, he noted the sentry laying flat against the console of the cruiser as it sat still in the middle of the road.
Keith was the first one to run toward it, pulling himself up onto the side of the cruizer as his bayard transformed into his well-known sword.
Behind them, the cadets put themselves back in formation, heading their way.
Their shots at the laser made not a single dent into it. As Lance came closer and closer to the neon blue device, he noticed it didn’t even have a single burn mark.
“Keith, they didn’t even make a dent at the laser. It’s still fully active,” Lance shouted, pulling himself onto the front of the cruiser.
“That can’t be right.”
At that, Keith made his way from the side of the cruizer to the front beside Lance. The two carefully inspected the laser, making no move to distance themselves from it or remove it from the helm.
“Pidge said we need to remove it. Don’t you think it would be of better judgment to just, leave it?”
“I think you’re underestimating her. You know Pidge knows that it can’t do that much damage if she’s asking us to retrieve it.”
“I don’t know about that, Lance.” Keith’s voice wasn’t accusing, it was soft. Filled with worry. “I feel like we should pull the comms up and double-check with her.”
“I mean, technically, she can hear us right now. I think she would have sent something by now if she didn’t want us to take it?”
The two made eye contact- or, the equivalent of it through black-tinted helmets.
“I really just don’t think-”
“Commander McClain, watch out!”
The following events happened as such:
One, Lance turned his head back to the helm of the cruiser as he heard the cadets should. Two, the once downed sentry was sitting up slightly now, his hands moving to the console with determination. Three, the laser was warming up now, the familiar buzzing sound of it filling Lance’s ears.
And four, the laser went off.
A strong weight was pushing into Lance’s side immediately, throwing him off the cruiser. Two arms wrapped around his side, and the next thing he knew, he heard several screams.
As if it was never there, the weight at his side was gone, and his vision was turning black.
His elbow hit the ground first, then the side of his helmet, and then his hip.
Recovering as fast as he could, his eyes bolted open.
There was a loud explosion around him. The ground below him shook vigorously, the bottom of the cruiser dipping to hit the cracked cement.
His ears were ringing, and he vaguely could make out the shout, “Traning sequence end!”
Snapping his head up, through blurred vision, Lance saw a flash of white and red. Without a second thought, with burning bones, he was reaching up at the falling figure, catching him in firey arms.
His eyes clamped shut as another explosion went off, and before he could control his actions, he was covering the figure below him with his body, cradling his head under his arms.
The floor still rattled beneath them, and Lance could vaguely make out his cadets yelling.
Opening his eyes, Lance looked down at the figure under him.
And like that, he thought the world just ended.
There was no black tinted helmet looking back at him.
Only a half-covered, regular glass, Voltron Helmet, with two violet, terror-filled eyes staring back at him.
Lance’s breathing began to increase immediately. There was no burn scar on the side of Keith’s cheek. His hair wasn’t completely pulled back. There was no scar under his lip.
This wasn’t his Keith.
There were loud footsteps all around him, but Lance couldn’t move. He kept as stiff as a board above the figure below him.
This couldn’t be real, he thought as he inspected the white armor he hadn’t seen in so many years.
A shaky breath escaped him as he felt a hand grab his forearm. Eyes darting to the side, he saw weak fingers curl around his armor, and suddenly Keith was pushing at him with force. Jerking back, he unwrapped his arms from Keith and slid back to the ground, his spine burning as he hit the ground hard.
“Commander McClain,” a cadet called out with worry. “Are you okay? Holt turned the simulation off.”
Before he even had the chance to address the cadet, the Keith who had been pushing at him was bolting up, his hand exploding with light as he activated his bayard. A strangled gasp left Lance’s throat when he lunged at him, pushing his already burning head into the ground and fitting his blade against his throat with light pressure.
“Where am I?” Keith demanded. His face was tight, his expression screwed into something Lance couldn’t exactly read. Not once had he been on the receiving end of this particular glare.
It was somewhere on the spectrum of scared, but angry all the same.
It was like all the words Lance knew had left his system.
He felt numb, breathless as this younger version of Keith continued to press the blade of the red bayard against his throat.
The red bayard.
That didn’t make sense in the back of Lance’s already foggy brain. Keith possessed the black bayard. The red bayard laid limp beside Lance’s thigh, digging into his side.
This didn’t seem right.
Suddenly, Keith’s blade retracted from his neck. There was a struggle of limbs and shouts, but once Lance finally got his senses back together, he looked up to see several cadets disarming this younger version of Keith, restraining his arms and keeping him still.
In their grasps, he thrashed. He kicked and jabbed at them with his elbows. His eyes were opened wide, frantic and scared.
In the pit of Lance’s stomach, this seemed familiar. Not in the sense like this was deja vu, but in the sense of he was forgetting something he knew he needed to remember.
Hands were grabbing at his shoulder blades and forearms, willing him to stand. He complied, keeping his eyes steady with the young Keith who was currently willing to put up one hell of a fight against twelve cadets.
As he steadied himself back onto the ground, locking his knees and keeping his hands wary at his sides, he watched Keith with steady eyes.
He looked to be about seventeen, eighteen at most. His hair poked slightly out under his protective glass, and his jawline wasn’t as sharp as it was when he was twenty. There was also the height and the way the paladin suit fit him differently from when it did in their last few years of fighting. It seemed bigger on him, like it was compensating for the lack of muscle.
Something was being pushed into his palm, and upon looking down, one of the Marmora Academy cadets was willing his bayard back into his grasp.
The sound of struggling came to a halt, breaths coming to an easy and no longer did the sound of armor on armor ring in the vicinity.
“Okay, this is really funny guys,” Keith suddenly spoke. His voice seemed strained, and his voice was an octave higher than Lance remembered it to be. “I showed up to practice late one time. I figured out your little simulation. You can quit messing around with me now.”
Looking back up to his face, Lance stared at this Keith’s face. The younger Keith had gone still in his cadets’ grasps, now staring at Lance.
“Shiro?” Keith called out, moving his eyes away from Lance. “Allura? Coran?” He paused, looking around the simulation deck. It had yet to return to it’s normal white and black dotted walls. “Hunk? Pidge?” There was an even longer pause now, and suddenly the some-what calm look Keith had managed to pull on was fading quick.
“Lance?” He shouted this time, arms thrashing. “Guys! This isn’t funny!”
He was back to thrashing again, kicking, and now screaming.
Saying nothing, Lance took down his tinted visor, tugging his helmet off with one hand. The young Keith in front of him paused, mouth dropping.
“Cadets, at ease,” Lance ordered, signaling them to drop Keith. Following his orders, the cadets dropped him, backing up a good foot behind him.
Keith stayed at a still, weaponless, as one of the cadets still had the bayard in his hand.
Clearing his throat, and swallowing thickly, Lance tucked his helmet under his arm and put his bayard back on the armor piece of his leg.
“Keith, this isn’t a simulation,” Lance started, his voice shaky. A few gasps came from some of the other cadets.
It wasn’t hard to tell that this was most definitely Keith. The eyes were a dead give away. However, much had changed since their Voltron days. The current Keith was more muscular and built, not a skinny teenager. The current Keith had scars, and well, this Keith didn’t. There was also the fact that this Keith clearly had much shorter hair.
“I believe that something has gone very wrong.” Keith stared at him like he was a foreign creature. That was expected, Lance thought.
Loud banging footsteps echoed around them suddenly. Peering in the direction they were coming from, Lance spotted Pidge running down the animated street, her lab coat disregarded and suddenly her bayard in hand.
“Hands where I can see them,” Pidge suddenly was saying, raising her de-transformed bayard up. Her goggles were still pulled down on her face, and she was carefully eyeing the young Keith that stood before them.
Uneasily, Lance was watching Pidge’s move, ready to stand between the two. Of course, Pidge would be cautious, but this Keith was clearly in distress as well.
“McClain, what happened,” Pidge ordered, looking his way now. They made eye contact, and now, Lance could see the way Pidge’s eyes were creased at the side. He noticed the way her shoulders shook and she worried her lip just the slightest.
Lance felt unsteady under her gaze. He could tell his arms were shaking, and his knees were beginning to buckle. The cadet who stood beside him was pushing their way between the two, pulling their helmet off. Purple hair bounced in front of them, as well as lean dark purple skin.
“Commander Holt,” she addressed with a sturdy voice.
Athena was a Marmora Academy graduate. She was following in the steps of her mother and uncle, and that uncle so happened to be Keith .
“Commander McClain and Kogane were disarming the laser from the cruiser. We thought we had disarmed the sentry. It came back to and pushed the button to the lazer. Lance was standing in front of the laser, and Keith pushed between the laser and him. Then you turned the simulation off, and the next thing we knew, Keith was gone, and this Keith had taken his place.”
Pidge nodded but continued to slowly make her way toward them with her bayard at her chest.
As she made it beside Athena, she lowered her bayard. Keith stared at her for a moment, taking in her appearance before lifting a questioning eyebrow.
Pidge lowered her bayard, pocketing it at her side. She nodded toward Lance, stepping beside him.
“My apologies for the hostility, Keith,” Pidge is quick to apologize. “Please allow me to explain. Your future counterpart from this time was hit with a laser, it’s effects resulted in this,” she pauses, motioning to him. “You two switching spots. You have been brought to the future, and from what I hope, our Keith has been put in your place in the past.”
Pidge pauses, her eyes downcast. She pulls her goggles down from her face to let them hang loosely over her neck. Her pale hands hover over them, clenching into fists as her lower lip juts out.
“This has happened before, in our past,” she states.
Lance watches her expression carefully as she closes her eyes. This has happened before? He doesn’t remember so.
“It was a mess... We had future Keith. He explained the situation to us... Our future counterparts had to fix it.” As if coming to a realization, Pidge is walking in front of Lance, hoisting herself up onto the cruiser. Her hands work quick to dismount the laser.
Lance’s eyes move from Pidge to Keith. Keith is side-eyeing Pidge, his expression blank with the exception of the curious arcs in his eyebrows. As if feeling his gaze, Keith turns to look at Lance.
When their eyes meet, Keith’s face changes. His lips press together harder, he lowers his eyebrows and his stance shifts.
“We need to fix this,” Pidge says as she jumps from the cruiser. She motions to Keith first, and then eyes Lance.