“And what does the little Green Paladin have for me today?”
Pidge sighed, making sure it was loud and audible.
It was the one bit of control she had in this situation and she would not allow the Galra to take it from her.
No matter what she refused to be scared by them.
She refused to give them that power.
“You are aware the definition of stupidity is asking the same question over and over with no change of variable and somehow expecting a different result. My answer is the same as the last six times you asked me: nothing.”
Pidge waited for the inevitable.
Commander Lozan, or as she preferred to call him, Asshole, would react in one of three ways.
He with either threaten her with bodily harm even though they both knew he would do no such thing as the Galra needed her in top working condition, mind and body. There might occasionally be a slap or a shove, but it was nothing Pidge couldn’t handle and as the Galra had learned getting within striking of distance of her meant she fought back.
Asshole still had a bandage wrapped about his hand from where she’d sunk her teeth in the other day so she doubted he was willing to try that again so soon.
He would throw pieces and parts and yell at her, all to Pidge’s raised eyebrow and sometimes a yawn, but he never once struck her. Shitty aim, Pidge taunted him and the resulting circuit board had almost hit her then.
Or, if he was in a really foul mood he might deny her rations for the day. It’s not like the tasteless gruel, worse even than food goo, was anything to miss and Pidge could certainly go without it (and had, a few times now) although she did miss the water.
He did none of those things.
Instead he smiled.
It was not a nice smile.
And for only the second time since she’d been captured (the first being when she’d awoken in this cell and told what was expected,of how excited the Galra were to have her, the technological genius, of Voltron in their hands) she felt a shiver go down her spine.
Something had changed.
She’d made it clear she wouldn’t work for them. She wouldn’t build them the advanced laser gun they wanted ( let’s start with something easy) , and definitely not anything even more dangerous. No tech. No hacking. No coding. She didn’t care what they did to her, she would never help the Galra Empire. No threat, no torture, no bribe, nothing, would ever gain her cooperation.
She’d tried to fool them on the first day, playing meek and scared, and taking their supplies and building herself a (very basic, shitty) gun with which to escape. And she had, shot Asshole right in the face (the crystal hadn’t been powerful enough for a fatal blow, unfortunately) as soon as he opened the door and ran out...
Right into a contingent of sentries and despite her best efforts she had been re-captured and put back into her cell.
The only repercussion outside of a backhanded slap from Asshole was the crystal power source had been taken away and she had been ordered to work on making the gun without it.
And despite the fact she sat there, day in and day out, doing nothing except rearranging the parts out of sheer boredom, they did nothing to her except the aforementioned three reactions.
It was the perfect spot to be in as a prisoner.
All she had to do was continue to wait. She knew her team would find her.
They were busy, fighting both Lotor’s forces and the Galra Empire. Outside of Hunk and Coran they didn’t have many technological brain cells to rub together to devise some sort of tracking device (Pidge honestly wasn’t sure she would know how to do it either but if anyone could she trusted those two). But she knew they’d have contacted her brother and the rebels. The Blade. Probably the Olkari. She knew they would all be trying to find her, to save her.
She just had no idea how long it would take.
And while such a thought of the unknown should scare her Pidge had already made the decision not to be scared and so she would not.
Her mind was too valuable to risk damaging (although she hated, hated, that they had known that about her, had laid a trap that resulted in her capture so they could attempt to use her and she just prayed daily that everyone else had made it out of that rigged base all right because they had to be okay) and her role as a Paladin was too important to kill her out of frustration.
She knew, ultimately, something would have to change but the Galra had seemed to be employing a wait and see method as though she would just one day roll over and decide to assist them out of boredom, but it had yet to appear and Pidge had decided it was not worth worrying about until it happened because she hoped her rescue would arrive before that.
It was happening.
Outwardly she tried not to show her sudden unease at the smile, at the lack of anger from Asshole.
Calm, she told herself.
Don’t give them control.
“You eat something funny?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. “Because your face is all kinds of freaky looking right now. You should stick with the scowls, Asshole. They’re a better look for you.”
The creepy smile remained.
“You still refuse to complete the project assigned to you?”
“Assigned?” Pidge repeated, incredulous. “Are you fucking serious?”
Asshole continued to speak as though she had merely agreed with him.
“Given that our previous methods of gaining your cooperation have failed--”
“Who the fuck are you?” she demanded, as this could not be Asshole, the words too polished, he too calm, but there was no mistaking his ugly countenance of pointy purple chin and bat-like ears and full yellow eyes. “What’s with the fancy vocabulary? You Asshole’s twin or something?”
“--we are employing a new tactic. It is one,” Asshole’s lips curled, “I will find very enjoyable.”
“Yeah?” Pidge crossed her arms. “And what’s that? Going to take away my chair? Find an even more disgusting food substitute?”
Don’t show them any fear.
Don’t give them control.
Asshole’s smirk only widened.
“You will find out momentarily. Come,” he gestured towards the door and Pidge barely kept from gaping.
They were letting her out?
What kind of idiots were they truly?
She slowly stood up from the actually pretty comfortable chair and then made a show of cracking her back and stretching.
Like hell she was going to comply so easily. Asshole would let it go to his head and she couldn’t have that.
Plus, she was using the time to scan Asshole’s belt unobtrusively (although it’d be better if she had her glasses but those had been confiscated along with her armor although she’d been allowed to keep her own undersuit) but even without the glinting cover she was able to pick out his blaster and some sort of tablet clipped on the opposite side.
She’d relieve him of his items, escape to a vent, reach out to Voltron on his tablet and before they could even think to put her back in her glorified cell Allura would be wormholing the entire castle and they would be faced with the full might and rage of Voltron.
Asshole was tall, nearly eight feet, putting Pidge’s head a little above his elbow. The perfect height to stumble and just so happen to grab at the items on his belt.
“Hands out in front,” Asshole ordered as she walked around her work table.
“Why? Afraid I’ll scratch you?” Pidge eye rolled even as she internally cursed, the weight from the cuffs clamped about her wrists never feeling heavier. They had yet to actually engage them and Pidge had honestly hoped they had been forgotten.
“I will not ask nicely again.”
And just like how his words had been more eloquent, more measured than previous, so too was the veiled warning.
Pidge tried not to swallow as the realization hit.
She had not been the only one playing games.
Now the question was, which version of Asshole was the real one?
She had a sickening feeling it was this one.
Why though? What had been the purpose of doing so?
Ice flooded her stomach as her eyes flicked to the bandage wrapped about his hand, what she had previously viewed as a victory.
He’d let her bite him.
He’d let her snark back at him.
He’d let her think he was this, this buffoon, of who she was smarter than in every way.
And by doing so…
She’d let her guard down, unintentionally. She’d assumed -- and the thought she had done so rankled even above the prickling horror -- things about the commander, about her situation, and she had become complacent.
What did he have planned?
Was it torture? The Druids could probably inflict high levels of pain without damaging her mind or her body. Would they try to pull secrets out of her mind? Could they do mind control? Could they wipe her memories? Shiro after all didn’t remember most of his time when he was a prisoner; had it been Druids?
But, she tried to comfort herself as she grudgingly brought her wrists in front of her and kept the bored sigh on the exterior, there wasn’t much she could have done. Even knowing that Asshole was in fact a more calculating foe than she’d anticipated would have done nothing and it’s not like she had given up anything of importance either.
She could have mentally been preparing herself though. Maybe some breathing exercises or, or some sort of mind barrier (how she had no idea, but too late now) to keep the Druids out.
She hated magic. Magic sucked balls. It was unpredictable, it was something she couldn’t plan for or anticipate like beautiful science and there was no way for her to counter it. Even after months of the whole concept of quintessence and mind-melding with not just fellow humans (and an Altean now) but a giant sentient robotic lion, she still couldn’t explain how it worked and despite grilling Coran and Allura they hadn’t been able to offer her the answers she desired.
She really, really hoped she wasn’t about to get a firsthand look.
The cuffs connected to one another with a little zing that made her hair raise but nothing worse than a static shock and she glared at Asshole as she lowered them to rest in front of her. “Happy now?”
And saying so he opened the cell, the door sliding into the ceiling with nary a whisper and he gestured for her to step in front of him. Pidge debated flight for all of a second; he may be tall but she was fast but nixed it; there was no way there weren’t sentries posted outside again to grab her and with her hands bound she couldn’t type as she needed nor scramble about a vent system so easily.
She was heading into the unknown right now. But she could still gather data; the base layout, the number of sentries, any possible codes that weren’t Galra-signature on the doors.
She may be a prisoner but she refused to be just that.
And with her head held high she strode past Asshole into the hall…
Where a contingent of six sentries waited all armed with blasters.
Running would have been pointless anyway.
The Galran’s clawed hand descended on her shoulder from behind and Pidge jerked away from him, bristling. “Only warning, Asshole, I’ll bite next time,” she threatened, baring her teeth.
Don’t show fear, she repeated it to herself again.
Don’t show fear.
Don’t give them control.
He chuckled and gave a slight shake of his head but didn’t reach for her again.
Pidge marked it as a victory in her book because she really, really needed one right now.
“Walk,” he said instead, making a gesture for her to go in front of him and she tried to resist tensing.
Should she try and run? It was a clear hallway in front, her feet were unbound and depending on what was in store this might be the best health she’d find herself in and it would be foolish not to take the chance when--
Two sentries clanked to stand in front of her and two more flanked her sides.
Pidge walked quietly with her armed escort but her mind was anything but as she noted turns, doors, and any type of feature that would give her a direction.
She realized within two minutes that they were repeating the same passage as based on the number of steps taken and the angle they were traversing there was nowhere for them to go but to repeat the same hallway. She hid her smirk. Joke was on them if the thought walking her around for extra time would disorient her.
Almost ten minutes later they came to a halt outside of a nondescript door that by Pidge’s calculations was actually only about three hallways from her own cell and, even more importantly, a few turns away from what appeared to be from past knowledge of Galra bases the hallway to a flight deck.
Her success at noticing such, of knowing if she could make a break for it there was no way she couldn’t reconfigure one of their ships and blast herself out, was fading as she stood in front of the door and she resisted the urge to wipe her hands on her legs as she could feel them now starting to grow the slightest bit clammy.
What was in there?
Torture chamber? Druids?
The door slid open…
And revealed an empty room.
“Another cell?” she asked instead, turning to look at Asshole. “Are you serious? Wow, great job. The change in decor is just the motivator I needed to work for you because nothing screams inspiration like an empty room. That was sarcasm by the way,” she added, just in case it wasn’t clear.
“In,” was all he said and Pidge stomped her way into it, flicking her eyes up for something that would indicate this cell was different somehow. She saw a camera nestled in the ceiling just like in her own cell but otherwise the only point of interest was one wall had a giant mirror along the length of it.
Was this an interrogation room with a one-way mirror?
That made no sense though as there was nothing here to restrain her, nothing to torture her with for information and honestly the cameras the Galra employed worked just fine so there was no need for a specialized audience of who Pidge could infer were watching her anyway.
Was she on the viewing side of the mirror and they wanted her to look in on someone else? Who? Why?
“Take a look, Paladin,” Asshole gestured at the mirror and Pidge raised an eyebrow as both he, herself, and two sentries that had entered the room behind them stared back.
She looked the same as always although her eyes looked bigger without the cover of glasses and her hair had a slight shine of oil and was looking a little rough around the edges.
“Are you trying to make me feel bad about the fact I haven’t had a bath in almost a week?” she asked, meeting his yellow eyes in the reflection.
“Would you like one?” he asked, meeting her stare.
“You think that’s going to bribe me?” she snorted, breaking their gazes apart. “Please.”
“You may wish you had reconsidered.”
Before she could come up with a retort the glass flickered in front of them and Pidge both wanted to fist bump that yes, she had been right about the one-way mirror, and recoil at what was on the other side.
But more than that…
There were three of them, all still wearing their uniforms and insignias that marked them as such, in three different species.
Not even his division.
She tried not to outwardly show her relief to at least that much.
They were unharmed and unrestrained other than their hands bound like Pidge’s were in front of her with cuffs. The sole male of the group, who looked a bit like Rolo but green-skinned, was pacing back and forth while the other two; an alien that looked a bit like a pig and one that Pidge could really only describe as “orange” sat on the far wall with their heads bowed and talking too quietly for Pidge to pick up actual words.
“These three were captured trying to infiltrate a base a few systems over,” Asshole said. “They were to be sent to the Arena but I had them brought here instead.”
Pidge filed that away. Commander Lozan apparently had some higher connections in the Galra Empire. She’d known he had to have some measure of power due to the fact he was in charge of her and this whole operation of force the Green Paladin to design him weapons, but it wasn’t just in relation to this quadrant of space.
“They are to be your incentive,” Asshole continued. “You have until tomorrow at this time to produce the gun I requested you build. If you fail to do so then you will have the pleasure of choosing which one of them dies.”
The word echoed.
Not tortured. Not hurt.
Someone was going to die if she didn’t comply.
But if she did as they asked…
This would be only the beginning.
She’d known something was going to have to change.
This she hadn’t expected at all.
She couldn’t Asshole see that it affected her, that, that she cared what happened to these aliens. If she did…
It would give them the power, the control.
The universe could not afford that.
But neither could these aliens.
What did she do?
“You’re very dramatic,” she said, wrenching her gaze away from the prisoners. “Practice in the mirror?”
It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. “You do not care about their lives? How…” his lip curled, “interesting.”
“Do you care about the lives of a random Galra soldier stationed across the universe?” Pidge countered.
Asshole let out a bark of laughter. “Of course not. But I am not a Paladin of Voltron, now am I?”
“And thank God for that.”
Asshole chuckled again. “Well, if that’s how you truly feel then I suppose I have no need to keep these scum alive any longer.” He reached up and tapped on his communicator.
There was apparently a signal in there as the door inside the cell opened and a contingent of sentries trooped in. The rebels were immediately on their feet with shouts but within a few ticks they had been immobilized by sheer numbers and the strength of the robots and all were on their knees with a sentry behind them, blaster pressed into their heads, execution style.
Orange was struggling and not-Rolo was cursing loudly while Pig’s eyes were down and her shoulders were trembling.
Pidge let out a shaky breath.
He’d called her bluff.
“On my signal,” Asshole said. “We’ll start with the loud one.”
The loud one.
Pidge was slammed with memories of Lance, her teases of him always talking, always yelling, that cocky smirk and grin that hid softer smiles and gentle eyes.
The blaster whined to a purple charge and not-Rolo’s curses and straining increased to no avail. Pig was openly crying now, broken sobs a backdrop to the yells.
“Stop!” it came out more breathless, higher than she wanted, and she could feel Asshole’s smirk, his victory.
She’d played right into his hands and they both knew it.
But what was she supposed to do? She couldn’t just stand by as they murdered people right in front of her because of her.
“Stop,” she repeated, forcing herself to meet that cruel gaze. “I’ll build your gun. If,” she emphasized the word and pointed with her bound hands, “you let all of them go. Alive.”
She didn’t both asking for not hurt; such a thing was unlikely to a bored Galra prison guard, and additional bartering would only make her look weaker. She had to try and maintain some level of control.
“You think you’re in a position to negotiate?”
“That’s my offer, take it or leave it.”
But Asshole only let out another throaty laugh. “It appears you can be reasoned with after all, Green Paladin.”
Pidge’s knees felt weak with relief as the sentries released the prisoners, shoving them forward but otherwise no worse for the wear, and exited out of the cell.
They were okay.
They were all alive.
She hadn’t just gotten them killed.
Her knees shook for a different reason then as Asshole’s hand landed on her shoulder, claws digging in tight and he bent down, lips nearly brushing her ear.
He knew it.
He knew that for all her bravado that she knew it too.
“Let’s see what you’ll have for me tomorrow, little Paladin,” he whispered, breath ghosting both fire and ice against her cheek. “And for their sakes…I do hope your answer is not ‘nothing.'”