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Trust and Burn- Betrayal and Team Voltron

Chapter Text

“So how are we doing?”

“With these last three planets we’ve liberated, we’ve managed to secure another entire quadrant. Most of those we have freed have expressed interest or intent to join our side. Only these two planets have elected to remain out of the coalition. They have declared themselves against the Galra though, so we shouldn’t have to worry about them giving us trouble.” Allura was studying the star map she had pulled up, gesturing to where she was referencing for Shiro’s benefit.

He watched closely and nodded along as she spoke. “And what do you think our next move should be?”

“Well, all but one of the planets in this zone-“ Allura gestured to an area close to where they were currently at “-have been destroyed by the Galra. The remaining planet, Wambo, is rather far away from the base on planet Tythorp. However, it’s the only planet in the area that still has viable resources for the Galra. From what we’ve gathered, the Galra rely heavily on shipments of multiple types of supplies for their colonies in neighboring galaxies. If we were able to free this planet and cut off supply lines, it would be a huge win for us, and a huge blow to the Galra.”

“What do you know about the people on that planet?”

“The Wambonians tend to be rather peaceful among each other, although they’ve never been incredibly hospitable to others,” Coran answered. “That’s not to say they’ll attack us on sight though. We will just need to be incredibly careful with how we go about conducting business with them. They are well known for being excellent weapon crafters. But then of course, it is possible that we’d be a bit more warmly welcome after centuries of Galran occupation.”

“And what do we know about the security there? How closely are the Galra guarding it?”

Allura turned to look at Shiro and Coran finally, looking ever so slightly guilty. “We aren’t sure. I had planned on sending Pidge in the Green Lion to act as a scout.”

She had a suspicion that Shiro wouldn’t like that idea, and judging by his face, she was absolutely correct. “No. I don’t want to send her out on her own. We’ve seen that some Galran bases have tech that can tamper with the Green Lion’s cloaking, and I don’t want to risk her getting caught.”

Normally the fact that he was so protective of their youngest teammate was rather endearing. But at times like these, where he needed to set aside those feelings, it was just plain frustrating. Of course, Allura could understand why he watched her like a hawk- he didn’t want to lose another Holt. But Pidge had proved on multiple occasions that she was capable of taking care of herself. “Shiro, we don’t have much of a choice. This is a risk we have to take. We can’t just fly in without knowing what we’re flying into. Pidge has already agreed to go. She should be getting ready right now.”

“You set this up without telling me?” Shiro asked angrily. “That wasn’t your decision to make!”

“It wasn’t exactly yours either, Shiro,” Pidge said, startling them all. She had managed to sneak up on them in full Paladin armor. “I’m the one going out there after all. Like Allura said, we can’t go into this blind. It’s just a simple in and out, gathering intel. No backup needed.”

He still looked mad, and that made Pidge feel uneasy. She had seen him angry on many occasions, but he had never been angry with her before. Ever. It wasn’t a good feeling. Now she knew how Lance and Keith felt. But she had to do it. She couldn’t let an upset Shiro ruin a mission to save countless innocents. Her mind was made up. She was doing this with or without his support. It seemed like she was going to have to go without, if his face was anything to judge by. Although she wanted him to stop looking at her with that frustrated expression, Pidge had made up her mind. “Sorry Shiro. I’m doing this, and I’m going to head out now. Allura, could you please remember to send me the coordinates? I have a general idea of which way to go, but I’d like to know which base I should try and start at.”

When Allura nodded, Pidge waved and started to walk away. Shiro couldn’t scowl at her if she wasn’t facing him. Or at least, she wouldn’t know he was scowling at her. Either way, she considered it a successful power play.

“Wait, Pidge!” Shiro called after her, causing her to pause and look towards him. He still looked less than pleased, goddamn it. “At least go get Lance to follow you in the Red Lion.”

“The Red Lion can’t go invisible,” Pidge shot back. “If another Lion came along, we would just be endangering them. I’ll just slip in, spend a bit of time studying the Galra’s movements, then I’ll just slip back out and report in.”

Fucking hell, why was she so reasonable? She was only fifteen years old, he shouldn’t have a hard time outsmarting her. It was just so hard to argue with her logic. Shiro knew that both she and Allura were right but that didn’t mean he had to like it. With a frustrated sigh, he nodded and waved a hand. “Fine. You report back as soon as you can. In and out, no distractions.”

“When have you ever known me to get distracted?”

That at least drew a small smile from him. “Just be safe.”

She nodded, and left without another word.

Shiro turned back around to frown at Allura. “Next time, you need to tell me about this kind of thing.”

“We knew that you would have said no,” she responded, meeting his eyes unabashedly. “And this is something that needed to be done.”

He didn’t look any happier, but he dropped the subject and sat down at his station to get to work anyway. “While we wait for her to get back, we may as well go through some scenarios. Best case, they have minimum security, and the Galra will be easy to fight off. Coran, will you be able to brief us on the basic niceties of these Wambonians?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good. We need to make a plan for the worst case though,” Shiro said. “In case it’s heavily guarded, we’ll need to know the basic layout of the planet, and where we can draw the fighting in order to keep the inhabitants safe. Can we get access to something like that?”

“Of course. Let’s get the other Paladins here to discuss this as well.”

•••

It took too long for Pidge to make it back, in the minds of everyone on board the Castle. But when she arrived, she arrived in one piece and with all the information they needed to put their plan into action. Keith had arrived to act as a representative for the Blade of Marmora, as well as to provide a little bit of backup, should the planet be too heavily guarded. And judging by Pidge’s report, they would likely need that backup.

“The place is crawling with sentries,” Pidge said, sitting down among the rest of them in the control room.

“Damn it, why can’t these places ever be easy to infiltrate?” Lance complained.

“Honestly, I’m more comfortable with that than I would be if there were fewer guards,” she answered seriously. “This means that it’s less likely to be some sort of trap. They’re relying on numbers rather than tricks. And numbers don’t sneak up on you quite as much.”

Lance had to concede that point. A pain in the ass now could save them from an even more severe pain in the ass later. All this really meant was they would have to do the fighting sooner rather than later.

“Alright Pidge, what can you tell us about the planet? Are there any chokeholds we can exploit?”

“Actually, yes. There are four main command centers that are being used. They all have a separate purpose to achieve their overall goal. One is for processing and sending out supplies, one is for managing the resources that Wambo supplies. The smallest is used to receive orders and pass on instructions towards the first two. The one closest to the planet is the largest, and is there to keep the people on the planet under control. I’d say the last two are going to be the trickiest. The last one has more guards than all the others combined, and the small one is in close contact with outside sources in the Galra empire, and can call for back up. They all have communication hubs, but the other three only work within a certain distance with each other. If we can discreetly get a hold of those first, then they won’t be able to call for help. It would have to be perfectly timed to avoid giving any center a chance to radio for help, but if we could do it, it would make the rest of the rescue much easier.”

The others were following along carefully. She was right- it would be tricky. But they had done trickier things than this. And they had a well thought out plan. Of course, that didn’t always mean much, but it was something. Coran told them about about the native Wambonians, what they were like and what sort of mannerisms to expect.

All in all, it should’ve been very easy. They were far enough away from the center of the Galra empire that they would have everything secured before reinforcements could get there. In fact, everyone thought that the only actually hard part would be taking the last one with all the guards.

It was a well-coordinated attack. Shiro took the smallest base by himself. Keith and Hunk took the two processing plants in the middle, while Lance, Allura, and Pidge shot to the largest one. With the quickest Lions flying the farthest, and the slower ships flying closer, everyone managed to arrive at their designated bases at the same time. Hunk and Keith were able to take control over the minimally-guarded stations, and Shiro was able to navigate the small orbiting ship smoothly enough. Pidge, Allura, and Lance had a bit of a harder time, just due to the sheer volume of Galrans they had to ninja their way through. But once they reached the main control center, Allura and Lance were able to watch Pidge’s back and she went about shutting the entire sentry system down.

From there, it was the simple task of chasing off the few remaining Galra officers. It didn’t take long once the Paladins were back in their Lions. There was always a 50/50 chance that just the sight of Voltron would send the Galra running. This was one of those times.

Easy.

Less easy was actually reaching the Wambonians. The transmissions were terribly garbled, and it was everything Coran could do to clear them up enough to work out what was being said.

“We- ‘ciate what you-for us. Would- to invi- palace.”

“They would like to invite us down to the palace?” Lance suggested, pleased when everyone nodded in agreement. “Alright! I’ll bet they wanna throw us a celebration!”

“Even if they do, remember why we’re here,” Shiro said with a small smile. “We need to try and get these people to join the Coalition.”

“And remember what I told you about the Wambonians once you get down there,” Coran added. “They can be a very touchy race. You need to make sure you conduct yourself with your best manners.”

He looked directly from Keith, to Pidge, then to Lance. The first two had tempers, and Lance was famous for his lack of tact in large groups. Keith scowled, Pidge shrugged, and Lance looked totally offended.

“I am the epitome of class!”

“Oh really?”

“I’m sure they’ll be on their best behavior,” Allura said calmly. She knew that her team would make sure that everything went successfully.

•••

“Emperor Kornak. Thank you for receiving us. We appreciate your hospitality. I am Princess Allura, of Altea. This is Keith, here as a representative for the Blade of Marmora. And these are the Paladins of Voltron,” Allura said formally, gesturing around to her team.

“It’s our pleasure, Princess Allura,” Kornak replied smoothly. “In fact, I would say we owe you this small act for ridding us of the Galra occupation.”

“We are glad to have been able to help. How long had the Galra been here?” Allura asked.

“They were here long before I was born. None of our people can recall a time before they took over.”

“How did the Wambonians choose you as an emperor?” Shiro was standing to the right of Allura. “It seemed to happen very quickly.”

“My family has been in charge for many millennia. The people don’t question our authority. Their loyalty to us runs deep. That is how we maintain our orderly society.”

Shiro glanced briefly at Allura to see if she thought it was odd as well. If she did, then she was much better at keeping a passive expression than he was. It seemed strange that the Galrans had been here for so long, and yet they still allowed the Wambonians to keep their own leaders. He couldn’t recall any other conquered planet that had been able to maintain that sort of autonomy. He just tried to shrug it off for now. Now, at least, they didn’t have to wait around for a new leader to be chosen. They already had one, and that would definitely help streamline this planet’s path to independence.

“Where are my manners? Are any of you hungry?” Kornak asked suddenly. “We have several cooks on call in our kitchen who would be more than happy to create a meal for our saviors.”

“Mr. Emperor, I would greatly appreciate it if you would be willing to let me look through the kitchen,” Hunk said politely, with a gleam in his eye. He would’ve loved to learn some of the delicacies of this planet. Food could bring people together where other techniques would fail. Cooking was an absolutely beautiful art. For a minute, Shiro wondered if Hunk was going to start bouncing up and down.

“Of course you may.” Kornak waved a hand at two of his guards to tell them to lead Hunk to the kitchen.

“Hey, I’m gonna go with you Hunk!” Lance said, following the trio. He wasn’t particularly interested in the diplomatic shit that was doubtlessly going to happen. Maybe if he went with Hunk, he would at least get some food out of it. Hunk’s food was always incredible.

“Is there anything you two might be interested in?” Kornak was looking at Keith and Pidge. Much to his displeasure, it seemed, neither of them expressed any interests. “We have many many things in the palace that you might enjoy exploring.”

Pidge got the hint that apparently this leader didn’t want them around, for one reason or another. Weird, but okay. The Wambonians probably had a certain way of doing things that they would just have to go along with. “I think I heard something mentioned earlier about you being great weapon makers? Would it be possible to look at some of what you’ve created?”

“Absolutely.” Two more of his guards approached them and and started leading Pidge and Keith away. Keith hadn’t exactly figured out that Kornak wanted it to be just Shiro and Allura, but he seemed to appreciate the Pidge had asked about something he would be interested in too.

Allura was starting to feel a bit uneasy herself as she watched her team being led away.

‘We’re outnumbered.’ The thought crept through her mind against her will. There was no reason for her to think like that. They had been treated with nothing but respect since they’d arrived. She was just being silly. “So, Emperor Kornak. Are you aware of what the Voltron Coalition is, and what our goals are?”

“I have heard rumors. You are a band of rebels, fighting against the Galra empire.”

“There’s a bit more to it than that,” Shiro said. “But I suppose that’s about the bare bones of it. We’re fighting to save planets from being destroyed, and to give people who’ve been enslaved for thousands of years a chance at freedom.”

“A very noble cause then.”

Kornak’s short replies were throwing Shiro and Allura off. It was tough to gage just how interested he was in the Coalition. They exchanged a brief glance before Allura probed forward. “Well, would you be interested in joining that cause?”

“Princess Allura, you are a lovely young lady. I sincerely apologize for what is about to happen.”

“What?”

Kornak didn’t say a word, but apparently the guards knew what they were meant to do. Before either Shiro or Allura could move, four guards were bearing down on them and seizing their arms.

“What are you doing?!” Allura demanded, immediately trying to jerk away. Suddenly his desire to separate them made sense, even if him capturing them didn’t. The others must’ve been receiving the same treatment. Why would Kornak turn against them? Hadn’t they just freed their planet?

“Well, we would be honored to join the Voltron Coalition. However, we would rather maintain good relations with the Galra. I’m sure you understand. They have expressed interest in learning some of the Coalition’s plans. I trust that you Paladins are aware of at least some of them? Were we to give one or two of you over to them, then it would certainly put us in their favor.”

“Why only one or two of us?” Shiro asked, trying to throw off his aggressors without much success. The Wambonians had a vast size advantage over them, and they were utilizing it. “Why not just hand us all over at once? Clearly you don’t care about Voltron, you might as well just get rid of us all.”

“We intend to keep all of you on hand as... I suppose you could say bargaining chips. Should the Galra try and disrupt our way of life more than we deem fit, we’ll just hand another one of you over.” This ugly fucker had thought this through.

“Wait- who are you going to turn in to them first?” Allura was trying to buy time- for what, she wasn’t sure, but usually the longer they would talk, the longer they had to escape.

It seemed that he wasn’t biting though. “We’ll be handing in the weakest first. Take them away.”

The weakest? She’d never admit it, but Allura’s mind went straight to Hunk. That wasn’t fair. He was strong in his own way. And he didn’t look weak- the one who fit that description would be Pidge. Judging by Shiro’s face, he had come to the same conclusion. But she would fight, and she would prove that she wasn’t weak, right? Had the others already been taken? If the Wambonians were really going through with this betrayal, then they had no way of knowing how long they had. How far had they chased the Galra away? And were the Wambonians able to contact them? The Paladins had been having trouble with their radios since they’d landed. Now that Allura thought of it, she wondered if that was a purposeful thing. The bastards had probably been planning this the whole time. It was then that she realized she was being dragged away from Shiro. She didn’t want to be in this situation at all, but she really didn’t want to be in it alone. “Wait- where are you taking him? Where are you taking me?!”

All she received was a rough cuff to the head that nearly knocked her to the ground and a short “quiet!”

Think. She had to assume the others had been attacked and captured as well. And worse case scenario, Pidge was being carted off to a Galra prison. What did they have to their advantage? The Lions, who were currently in their hangars in the Castle. The Castle. Coran.

Coran! He would be the key to getting out of here. She needed to get ahold of him somehow. Her helmet was still on. They hadn’t been given much of an opportunity to take them off. If she could get far enough away from the guards to send a message without them knowing about it, then he could come in and rescue them. That opportunity presented itself when she was finally shoved into a cell. She couldn’t see any of the others around her. How many cells did this tiny palace have? If she couldn’t see them, then it only made sense that they were being kept in another part of this stupid maze of a place.

‘Focus!’ She needed to remember what her plan was. The message would have to be short enough to go unnoticed, but long enough for Coran to get the point. She hoped the static she was hearing when she turned on her radio was just on her end. If she couldn’t get ahold of Coran, then they might be stuck down here. And Pidge... she needed to reach him.

“Coran. The planet is unsafe,” she whispered urgently into her microphone. “The inhabitants are awful. They’ve turned against us. Pidge is in danger. We need help.”

‘Please let it have gone through.’

•••

Shiro was pacing wall to wall of the room he’d been placed in. He’d been expecting a prison cell. Instead it was more along the lines of a crappy miniature living room. Only around five by six feet, it had two uncomfortable chairs and a table that barely rose to his knees.

“Hello? Can anyone hear me?” Shiro tried speaking into the mike in his helmet. He wasn’t all that optimistic about reaching anyone, but it was worth a shot. “Guys?”

“-there buddy? Did- caught too? Where- at?”

“Is that Lance? Are you okay?” If Lance answered, then Shiro couldn’t hear it. Cursing under his breath, Shiro turned to look at the door he’d been pushed through.

It was made of metal, with a small window in the middle, like a school door would have. He’d tried banging on the door to get someone’s- anyone’s attention, but no one answered. He hoped that meant there was no one out there. If he was right, and the door was just some sort of generic metal, then his hand should be able to melt it. There were a few risks in doing it, but the risks of not doing it far outweighed them. So he activated his arm and went for the door.

Sure enough, it cut through the metal easily, so he started the process of cutting out a hole. It was infuriatingly slow going. He had a sinking feeling that this was going to be the easiest part of the escape. He just needed to find the others and get the hell off the planet. Shiro added the ‘just’ there in his head to try and make it sound simpler. It didn’t work. He had to run on the assumption that the others had all been split up as well. And if they had been treated like him and just shoved into random rooms, then his chances of finding them quickly were very low. All the more reason to get his ass in gear and hurry up with this hole. Hopefully he’d find at least one of the others before the Wambonians realized he was missing.

By the time Shiro had managed to kick out a large enough chunk of metal to wiggle through, he had worked up a sweat. He was really hoping he wouldn’t run into anything right away. He needed to catch his breath. That hope dissipated less than a minute after he made it out.

“Shiro!”

Chapter Text

“Mr. Emperor, I would greatly appreciate it if you would be willing to let me look through the kitchen,” Hunk said politely. So far just about every planet they had been to had at least one absolutely delectable meal that he would teach himself to reproduce. It was one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Of course you may.” Two huge Wambonians stepped forward, and Hunk allowed them to start leading the way.

“Hey, I’m gonna go with you Hunk!” Hunk gave Lance a thumbs up, and Lance hurried after them. “So what are you gonna try and make?”

“I’m not sure,” Hunk said thoughtfully as they walked. “That depends on what they have here.”

“I hope they’ve got some dessert. I really worked up an appetite, and I feel entitled to something sweet. Wouldn’t you say so?”

“Oh yeah, I could go for something sweet. What kinds of desserts do you have here?” Hunk asked, directing his attention to their escorts. “Anything you think a simple earthling like myself can manage?”

The guard in front of them shrugged and Hunk’s shoulders drooped almost imperceptibly. But Lance knew him well enough to know when he was disappointed. So Lance bumped his shoulder against Hunk’s and grinned. “Hey, it’ll just be a surprise then. I’ll bet the chefs here are good enough to show you a new thing or two. Or who knows, maybe you’ll be able to teach them something!”

It warmed his heart to see Hunk smile back at him. Lance didn’t like seeing anyone upset, but especially Mr. Ray of Sunshine himself. It could get exhausting during one of his panic episodes to try and cheer him up, but it was always worth it. Besides, Hunk helped him through hard times as well. It was the very least Lance could do. He had to try hard not to laugh at the way Hunk’s face lit up when they entered the kitchen. Like a kid on Christmas.

Hunk’s enthusiasm was contagious, and Lance was eager to help him start cooking. The more he looked around, the hungrier he felt. When had he last eaten? It was before their big fight with the Galra. It had to be nearing meal time. “Hunk, I know I said something sweet sounds good, but now I’m actually thinking some real food might be good too.”

“I’m thinking so too,” Hunk agreed happily. “I’m thinking we try some kind of pappardelle, see we can come up with some kind of herby sauce. Ooh, maybe they have some things we can use to make spanakopita! And for dessert, maybe I’ll just make it easy and try like, a pie or something.”

“Oh my god. Hunk, if you’re actually able to put that together, I will do absolutely anything for you. Anything. Look at me, Hunk. Anything.” The sincerity on Lance’s face was alarming, but made Hunk chuckle all the same.

“I’ll keep that in mind. So where do you keep your- ow!” Hunk yelped when something hard collided with his back. He was struck hard enough to be knocked forward, and he tripped over is own feet. When he managed to find his balance, he looked back to find two Wambonians bearing down on him. Next thing he knew, he was being shoved roughly through a door. He could hear Lance yelling, and when he glanced back, he saw that he was receiving similar treatment. “Wait, what’s going on? What are you doing? We’re the good guys!”

“Emperor Kornak has instructed that you are all to be placed under arrest,” one giant alien told him shortly before slamming the door shut and locking Hunk in.

Dang it. Hunk groaned, and banged the door once with his fist. Nothing. He tried the handle. Nothing. Crap. Why had they done this? What the heck had they done to deserve this? He looked around at where they had placed him. Was this a pantry? It was lined with food and spices. This had to be some sort of joke. What kind of people put prisoners in a freaking pantry? Where had they put Lance, in a wardrobe?

•••

He was surrounded by clothes. They had put him in a walk-in wardrobe. Lance had always wanted one of these. But now all he wanted was out. Of course, his first instinct was to run forward and pound on the door. He didn’t think he would get much out of that, and nothing happened, so he turned his attention to the room itself. Maybe there was something in here that could be of some use. So he started sifting through pockets, feeling down the walls, stomping around on the floor, looking for anything that might give him even the most basic start to getting out. As a last ditch attempt, he tried jiggling the doorknob, not really expecting it to do anything.

The door swung open.

Lance was starting to get the feeling that these people didn’t usually keep prisoners.

“Hello? Can- hear- ‘e?” A voice that sounded like it might’ve been Shiro crackled through his helmet, making Lance flinch.

“Shiro? You there buddy? Did you get caught too?” Lance asked quietly, starting to slink out of the room he was in. He was feeling a bit on the anxious side, and being alone wasn’t helping. “Where you at?”

“Is- Lance?” Shiro asked. Lance groaned. It wasn’t enough that they’d been separated and attacked. They just had to have shitty reception as well. At least he was hearing something though, that was a plus. He was a little less alone. In a hostile, unfamiliar environment, it always felt better to not be alone. Lance was absurdly reminded of all the times he had dragged Hunk along to snoop through Pidge’s room all of the sudden. As he walked, he thought about it more and started noticing the similarities. Both then and now he’d been trying to sneak around somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be with the threat of being murdered on sight if caught. Good times. God, he needed to find someone else quickly before he went into full blown panic mode.

It wasn’t far away. He wasn’t sure if going to Hunk would be a good idea- if the Wambonians were still there, then he’d just get caught again. There was no way he could take one of them on by himself. And he had a feeling that next time they wouldn’t forget to lock him in. Lance cautiously crept through the palace. He wasn’t sure where to start looking for the others, but if he stopped, he would be a sitting duck.

Suddenly Lance heard a thunk and a quiet hiss coming from the door right next to him. Immediately, his heart tried to pound out of his chest and he flattened himself against the wall opposite the door. ‘Nice going Lance, like that’ll protect you.’

His apprehension disappeared quickly though when he saw who it was that was pushing through a newly made hole in the metal door. “Shiro!”

“Lance, are you okay? Are you hurt?” Shiro’s voice was a welcome sound that Lance relished. He nearly threw his arms around the older man, but he had to remind himself that this wasn’t the ideal location for a heartfelt reunion.

“No, I’m fine. What about you? How did you do that? Where are the others?” Lance was rubbing his hand over his heart, trying to calm himself down. It wasn’t helping very much.

“I’m not sure, I haven’t heard from anyone else yet. As for how I got out-“ Shiro activated his arm once more and clenched his fist. “Cuts through metal like a hot knife through butter. You were with Hunk, right? Did you see where they took him?”

“Ah- no. Last I saw of him was in the kitchen. It looked like they were pulling him through a door, but I don’t know where it led to.”

“Well, that sounds like our best bet to start. Do you remember how to get there?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty close. This way. Say, Shiro, was that a cell that they put you in?”

“No. It was this weird little room with some chairs and a table in it. Why?”

“I was in a unlocked walk-in closet.” Lance left it at that as they ran. This was quite the ass-backwards place they were in. He wasn’t exactly used to running in front, especially with Shiro around. But it only took them a few minutes to reach the kitchen with him leading the way. They slowed down as Lance pointed at the door he’d seen Hunk disappear through. They both stiffened when they saw the door shaking. Shiro approached it cautiously, in case it was another trap for them. However, when he jerked the door opened, they found Hunk hacking away at the door with a cleaver. The poor boy jumped about a foot in the air when the door opened, but he relaxed quickly when he saw who it was.

“Oh thank goodness it’s you! Was it you over the radio, Shiro? I thought it might’ve been, but I wasn’t sure if I was just making things up in my head.”

“Yeah, it was me,” Shiro said. “Hunk, have you heard from anyone else?”

“No, I haven’t. You’re the only one who’s voice I was able to make out clearly. I thought I heard Allura say something earlier, but I’m not sure, there’s been all kind of static that’s made it hard to make anything else out.”

“I know, it sucks! This place is awful,” Lance agreed as they started to run out of the kitchen. “We need to hightail it the hell out of here. These people are shitty at keeping prisoners, I bet the others have already gotten out.”

“Okay, we found Hunk. We’re looking for Keith and Pidge now,” Shiro said into the microphone for anyone who might’ve been able to hear him. He wasn’t paying much attention to Lance and Hunk for the time being. Getting in contact with anyone would be a huge step in the right direction.

They were only ones they hadn’t heard from, assuming it actually was Allura that Hunk had heard. The only way that they could really communicate efficiently was face-to-face, and when they were scattered about like they were, it was hard to make that happen. Luckily right now, half of the team had managed to regroup. They only needed three more. It would’ve been so much easier if they had an idea of where the others were at. Instead they were just running around blindly and hoping to bump into them. It seemed implausible though, given the small size of the palace, that it would take too terribly long to find them. And luckily they ran into the next team member less than ten minutes later.

“Wait- Do you guys hear that?” Hunk asked, stopping in his tracks.

Lance and Shiro both stopped as well to listen. It sounded like... someone yelling and pounding on a wall.

“Keith?” Lance glanced at the other two, who nodded confirmation. Two more.

Hunk was already trying to radio Allura as Shiro and Lance went about getting the door opened. He was standing at the ready, prepared to take on any Wambonian that even dared set its eyes on them. “Allura, we’ve found Keith. No word on Pidge yet though.”

When Shiro and Lance got the door open, Keith came bursting out, looking around frantically, giving Lance the chance to poke his head in and see what was going on.

“No way, they locked you in a janitor’s closet? How did these Wambonians get the jump on us?”

“Because we were dumb and let our guard down,” Shiro said hurriedly. “Keith, which way did they take Pidge?”

Keith looked stricken when he was reminded of her. “Pidge! Shit, they’re handing her over to the Galra!”

“What?!” Lance’s exclamation was ignored. Apparently Shiro had suspected as much, if the dismay in his face was any indicator. He’d been expecting that.

“Okay. We need to get off this planet, right now. If we can hurry, we can cut off any ship that’s leaving to look for her. Getting Pidge back is our primary goal. As of right now, she is our number one priority.”

Chapter Text

Keith was pissed off.

More pissed off than usual.

He hadn’t been able to do anything except struggle and watch as the stupid Wambonians hit Pidge hard over the head. She went limp, and they immediately dragged her off away from him. They’d tried to smack him as well, but they didn’t seem to have a very good idea of where to strike on a human to knock them out. They must’ve just gotten lucky with Pidge. All Keith got was a pounding headache.

It took a moment for his ears to stop ringing, but when they did, he was being hauled away in the opposite direction. The alien was holding him by the back of the neck like he was a kitten being carried by its mother. The Wambonians were giant. “Where’d you take her?!”

“You’ll see soon enough.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Keith demanded. The Wambonian didn’t even seem to notice him fighting against them. “Where is she?!”

He sighed exasperatedly. “You humans are so obnoxious. The little green one will be the first to go to the Galra. She is the youngest, and hopefully will give them whatever information they need easily. The rest of you will be kept imprisoned here, to appease the Galra if they get too harsh with our people. We will give them another one one of you, and another, and another, until either the Galra get enough to leave us be, or we run out of you to hand over. We do hope that no more of you will have to be given away. The more of you who remain, the more leverage we have.”

Keith barked a laugh. “Really? You think Pidge is the most likely to crack? There’s no way she will. Do you seriously think this is gonna end well for you? After you turned one of us in? After you betrayed us? I promise you, you’re going to regret this.”

The Wambonian stopped to adjust its hold on Keith and pounded him once against the wall to try and make him stay still. It worked momentarily, and it resumed walking wherever it was taking him. “The rest of you will be well taken care of in the meantime,” he said, apparently electing to ignore Keith.

Like Keith was worried about that right now. He had other priorities. Pidge was being taken to the Galra- he needed to stop that. Every minute he wasted now was a minute that led Pidge closer to being traded away. Who knows where they would take her if they got to her? Or what they would do to her? “How will you even know if Pidge gives them the information they want? What’s to stop them from taking total control from you again once you’ve turned us all in?”

“We’ll deal with that when the time comes.” As they spoke, the Wambonian continued parading Keith through the halls like a goddamn trophy.

“You have no contingency plan!” Keith wasn’t really one to talk about contingency plans, but they didn’t know that.

“We do what our emperor commands us to do. This empire has led us through many centuries. We trust their judgement.”

“Please, a man like him is gonna turn against you the minute he thinks it’ll do him any good. You’d be better off without him.” Keith was ignored.

Soon enough, they reached a small door. Or at least, a small door in comparison to these giant back-stabbing dicks. The Wambonian finally set Keith down and shoved him hard through the door. “I do hope we won’t have to turn you over to the Galra. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from us shortly."

Keith scowled when the door shut behind him. Once he was alone, he started to study his surroundings. It appeared he was locked in a janitorial closet. Did they not have jails here? Whatever. At least some of this shit had to be useful to him. Maybe some of these chemicals could burn through the door or something. Shit, he should’ve paid more attention in chemistry. Right now the only thing he was able to remember was that certain cleaning chemicals could produce deadly reactions when mixed with other chemicals. And all the labels were in Wambonian, so he was left at a complete loss of what to do with them. He started looking through it all, muttering to himself under his breath.

“They are gonna regret this. I swear to god, they will.”

Very carefully, Keith began to pick up random bottles and sniff at them. Fuck, they didn’t even smell like anything on Earth. After the tenth unsuccessful test, Keith started getting really frustrated. Eventually he started chucking every box and bottle he picked up down on the floor, even managing to break a few. ‘Why am I even doing this? What am I looking for?’ He didn’t know. There had to be some way out of this stupid, shitty room. There was always a way. He just needed to sort it out.

He stiffened when the door opened.

“No way, they locked you in a janitor’s closet? How did these Wambonians get the jump on us?” Lance’s normally rather grating voice sounded like some sweet, angelic choir at that moment. Keith almost hugged him.

“Because we were dumb,” Shiro said hurriedly. “Keith, which way did they take Pidge?”

Keith looked stricken when he was reminded of her. “Pidge! Shit, they’re handing her over to the Galra!”

“What?!” Lance’s exclamation was ignored. Apparently Shiro had suspected as much, if the disappointment in his face was any indicator. He’d been expecting that. Not that it made it any easier to accept.

“Okay. We need to get off this planet, right now. If we can hurry, we can cut off any ship that’s leaving to look for her. Getting Pidge back is our primary goal. As of right now, she is our number one priority.” Shiro’s voice was firm, and Keith was envious of his confidence.

It was then that they received another message from Allura. “Pal- one foun- Pidge-? Need to- Coran-to the Castle- injured.” Her voice crackled through and just barely gave them enough to figure out what was going on.

“Oh no- is he gonna be okay?” Hunk asked before being waved off by Shiro.

“Allura, we’ll meet you at the Castle soon. We need to hurry- if you get to the Castle before us, don’t let any ships get by!” Shiro wasn’t sure how much was getting through to her, but he hoped it was enough. He was already running, and the others were hot on his trail.

“Be fine- hurry- you all f- ‘Idge-going back.”

“Do we have any idea how to get back? I don’t remember where the Lions were parked,” said Lance, sounding rather anxious. Not that anyone could blame him. This was a tense situation, where time was absolutely crucial. If they didn’t hurry, then they faced losing a part of their family. The thought of Voltron, of the Castle, of just day-to-day life at this point without Pidge was upsetting, to say the very least. She held a special place in everyone’s hearts.

“Uh, I think I do,” Hunk volunteered. He had a habit of keep close track of where he was. Odd as it may have seemed, focusing on where he was and where he was going helped to keep him grounded, and cooled his nerves just a little in times like this. Situational awareness gave him a small degree of control, and made it easier to stave off some of the fear. Everyone nodded, so Hunk took his place at the front of their little group and started to lead them along.

It didn’t take long at all for them to pass the large throne room where they had met with Emperor Kornak. Keith stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the huge doors in front of them. His hand twitched, then formed a fist as he stared at the handles that would’ve lead him right to the backstabbing leader of the Wambonians. Almost without thinking, Keith marched over to the doors and reached out to throw them open, but he was stopped when he felt Shiro snatch his shoulders and jerked him back.

“Keith,” he hissed, “what the fuck are you doing?”

“He’s in there,” Keith retorted, not looking back at Shiro. He shrugged him off and made to grab at the handles again. “I’m going to take him out. Kornak needs to go down.”

“Now isn’t the time.” This time Shiro forced him to spin around and look him in the eye. “We need to get out of here to find Pidge.”

Keith glanced back at the door and groaned. He knew the Shiro was right, but it didn’t make leaving any easier. Against everything his heart was telling him, Keith turned away and started following them again.

With Hunk in the lead, they were able to get directly to their Lions. Before they left, Keith and Lance hung back to destroy as many cannons and weapons warehouses as they could. Fire rained down from the Red Lion and Keith’s ship on to Wambo. Neither of them felt the slightest bit of guilt. As soon as there was no more firing coming from the planet, they both hightailed it to the Castle as fast as their ships could take them.

Shiro and Hunk were waiting quietly for them to land. When Lance and Keith came rushing out of their vessels, they all hurried to the most logical place to go knowing that Coran was hurt. The infirmary. The four of them walked in just in time to see Coran being encased in a healing pod and Allura turning to face them. She studied the group closely, scanning each of their faces, and they could see the question forming. “Where is Pidge?”

Keith felt four pairs of eyes land on him. He sighed inwardly. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have. But they needed to know if they were going to get her back. “She’s gone. I really hoped they hadn’t- they thought that she would be the first one to crack. I couldn’t- they handed her over to the Galra.”

Just like that, everyone’s worst fears were confirmed. Pidge was gone, and no one had any clue where she might’ve been taken. “Is it possible she hadn’t been taken off-planet yet?” Hunk asked with only the slightest bit of hope in his voice.

“I’m going to do a scan of the planet to see if we can detect any human DNA,” Allura answered, pushing through them and breaking into a jog towards the control room. The sudden silence had everyone’s ears ringing, and the boys could only stand there in a temporary state of stunned silence. So much had just happened in a matter of hours. None of them had actually had the chance to take in the events that had just unfolded. Even as they started processing it, no one said anything. What even was there to say?

It was Hunk who moved first. Without saying anything, he walked off on his own after Allura.

The others followed, one-by-one, still remaining quiet. There wasn’t anything to say. Even once they all reached the bridge, no one said a word. They just watched Allura move about erratically, trying to keep her hands busy and her mind from wandering. It wasn’t working so well. Her brain was trying to come up with a million ways to track Pidge down if she wasn’t on the planet anymore, none of which were remotely practical, and each more dramatic than the last. But these were hypothetical, they didn’t need to be practical. A part of her knew that she was trying to distract herself from the horrible truth that she was finding in her readings.

“I’m not able to detect any signs of human life,” she said slowly, with a frown. “However, it’s possible that whatever was blocking our radio signals is also interfering with the scanner.”

“It’s also possible that she’s already gone.”

“Yes,” she agreed, “that’s very possible. Which is why I’m suggesting we contact a member of the Coalition to see if anyone might be willing to stand guard over the planet to stop any outgoing and incoming enemy ships. That way we can go about searching for her out in the rest of the universe.”

That was the most rational of plans that she had come up with. No one objected, so Allura took that as confirmation to go about setting it in motion.

“We need to find her,” Keith said quietly. Shiro imagined he was feeling immensely guilty. He had only been able to watch when Pidge was dragged away. Of course, no one else felt much better. Pidge was special to them all. It just wouldn’t be Voltron without her. Literally. Even if she weren’t family, they’d need to get her back to continue their crusade through the universe. Replacing her was unthinkable.

‘She hasn’t been gone that long. You’re getting ahead of yourself,’ thought Keith. ‘We’ll probably find her in no time.’

She had to be considered a high-profile prisoner after all, right? A Paladin of Voltron, in the custody of the Galra. Wouldn’t they want to flaunt that? Surely they would be able to find her quickly enough. Before too much was done to her.

It would all be better once they got her back.

•••

A month and a half later though, and Keith was feeling more depressed with every passing day. They had to assume by now that she had been taken deep into the Galra Empire. They had searched all the closest planets surrounding Wambo. Hunk was spending all his time analyzing every bit of Galran chatter they could get a hold of, searching for any possible clues in it. After the sixth week, Keith couldn’t help but approach Shiro.

“Hey... what do you think they’re doing to her?”

Shiro studied his face carefully before saying anything. “Keith, I don’t think this is something you need to hear.”

“I do though,” Keith answered firmly. “She was kidnapped on my watch. I need to know what they’re doing.”

And there it was. It had remained unspoken until now, the shared determination to keep her safe. Of course everyone on the team cared for one another. But from the start, Keith, Shiro, Hunk, and Lance all had an implicit agreement that Pidge was to be protected. She was tough, sure, but she was also the youngest among them, and any of them would’ve gladly taken a hit in her place. They all were already feeling guilty- Keith had to be feeling it more than the rest of them though. So Shiro sighed and nodded. “Well, they aren’t sending her to any beach resort. She’s a Paladin, and a human. Neither of those things are exactly commonplace this far out. If I had to guess, I’d say they’ve probably handed her over to the Druids by now. They’ll want information out of her, and they’re the best ones for that job. They’re- they’re good at what they do.”

There was a tremor in Shiro’s voice, and Keith suddenly realized that he probably didn’t want to talk about it. The one thing Keith couldn’t stop thinking about was the one thing Shiro couldn’t stand to think about. He felt guilty for bringing it up. But he had to know- “Do you think they’ll kill her?”

This pause was longer, and for a moment, Keith wondered if Shiro was even going to reply. He needed an answer though, and maintained eye contact until he got one.

“No. But she’s going to wish that they would.”

Chapter Text

The Wambonians had seemed like they could’ve been valuable partners in the Voltron Coalition. They were a more advanced civilization that had been forced into making weapons for the Galra empire. The Paladins had just assumed they might prefer to live as free people. So they had gone onto the planet to see about negotiating an agreement with its people. Right away, they went about subtly splitting up the Paladins. Allura and Shiro had stayed with the planet’s leader. Hunk had been escorted to the kitchen, with Lance tagging along, and Keith and Pidge were led off to the armory. Keith had actually looked excited to see what sort of weapons they had there, and Pidge was interested in the great strides in weapons technology that she had heard of from Coran.

So they all went along with it.

That had been a bad idea.

Not long after they'd been led away from their team, the two Wambonians escorting them had jumped them. They’d managed to catch Pidge and Keith totally off guard. With no bayards in reach to defend themselves with, they didn’t stand much of a chance against the nine-foot tall species.

The one behind them (Pidge later berated herself for not thinking it was odd that a guide was walking behind her) had lunged forward at them, wrapping his four strong tentacle-like appendages firmly around them both before they could register what was happening. Two covered their mouths, to keep them from screaming, and the other two grabbed at their arms and legs to prevent the Paladins from fighting against them. Just as it was dawning on Pidge that something was seriously wrong, the one in front of her spun around and placed a harsh blow to her temple, and she promptly passed out.

When she finally woke up, she found she was alone, bound and gagged on a Galra ship.

There was no way of telling how long it had been since their intended-to-be allies had betrayed them and turned her over to the Galra. From what Pidge had gathered, the Galra had offered planets a certain degree of autonomy if they turned a Paladin of Voltron in to them. Not a bad deal in theory, but there was no guarantee that the Galra would hold up their end of the bargain. In fact, it was more likely that they wouldn’t grant those planets the freedom they were promised.

Thinking back to it, there had been so many red flags that Pidge actually felt stupid for missing. She didn’t feel stupid very often. It wasn’t pleasant.

And so here she was. Dressed in rags, stuck in solitary confinement with only the occasional Galran guard there to mock her. Normally she had no qualms about being left alone. But when she was trapped like she was, she would’ve liked some company, even if it was just other prisoners. She hated to admit it, but she was scared, and all alone like this, she didn’t have much to comfort herself with. Her team would find her. She had to keep reminding herself of that. There was no way they would give up on her. She just needed to hold out until they found her. Right?

Apparently her tormentors weren’t of the same opinion.

“How does it feel, knowing your fellow Paladins have left you behind? Knowing that they don’t care enough to come find you? Knowing that you’re not worth the time it would take to rescue you?”

Ignore them. She couldn’t let thoughts like that take hold. That was hard, when they were being repeated at her time and time again. It only got worse when they started taking her out of the cell. That was when the torture began. It grew to be a daily activity. If they took her out of her cell to ‘work on her’ then she would be taken to the same room every time. Left, right, right, left, and they were there. Easy to memorize.

They started simple. The first time, she was beat mercilessly. Just punches and kicks. Rather lazy, in her opinion, but it did hurt, so she supposed it had done its job. She thought she could still feel one particularly harsh kick to her chin that had to have chipped a bone somewhere. This was easy going though. It wouldn’t be long before they started really getting into it, she knew, and when that happened, she would be in trouble. Pidge liked to think that she had a higher-than-average pain tolerance, but there was no way she could last forever.

Especially as they started having fun.

Some of the Galran instruments of torture were shockingly close in design to the first torture instruments found on Earth. They had an iron maiden, a rack, a parilla, and a device that chillingly resembled a choke pear. Of course, the Galrans were much more intent upon inflicting pain than many earthlings had ever been, and almost all of their weapons had some horrific added aspect to it. Crippling electricity was a favorite. There was no shortage of psychological torture as well. Pidge really hated that.

Yes, they were good at torture. It was a pastime for them. No different from her playing around on her computer. Fuck, they’d turned it into an art. And with every time she left her cell, she returned with less of herself. It was an awful experience, feeling herself start to slip away and tear apart. The worst part was that Pidge was starting to believe that her friends weren’t coming back for her. By now, there was no way for her to get out on her own. They didn’t have any sort of feeding schedule. It was more like they would just throw food at her when they remembered to. And it had taken her far too long to make them realize that humans needed regular hydration to stay alive. Even if she hadn’t been beaten on a regular basis, she had a suspicion that she would still be hurting. She wasn’t strong enough to make it on her own. Her only hope was her team.

Where were they? Why hadn’t they rescued her? It terrified her to think that they actually had abandoned her. If they had, then soon enough, she would be of no more value to the Galra. What would they do to her when that happened? She was too smart to think that they would just let her go. Not when they were enjoying her so much.

They enjoyed hitting and kicking her. Scratching and biting her, breaking her bones. Slicing into her, electrocuting her. Carving pieces of her out, bit by bit, literally and figuratively. They were just going to keep violating her in every way imaginable, each time taking more of her away with them.

It was more than just the pain that got to her. It was the humiliation too. To them, she was just an object that made fun noises when she was hit just right. Being reduced to that hurt in every way possible. They weren’t even asking her questions anymore. They were just fucking with her for their own entertainment.

And she was powerless to stop them.

•••

Every. Last. One.

If she got out of here, Pidge swore she was going to make that entire traitorous planet pay. They were going to regret crossing the Green Paladin. Each passing hour had her plotting what she would do. The lazy part of her said she should just find a way to blow it up. It was a small planet, it wouldn’t take too much effort. But the longer she was imprisoned, and the angrier she got, the less she wanted to make it quick for them. Maybe she’d poison their water supply. Or whatever that crap they drank was called. Give them something that would cause a slow death. Maybe there was some way she could amp up her Lion’s vines, and let the whole planet be smothered in them. A symbolic justice. So far that was her favorite idea. And one of her less practical ones.

Her rage had grown so that she no longer cared about any innocent lives.

They would all be facing her wrath.

She was going to destroy every last treacherous Wambonian she could find.

•••

She usually preferred to wake up on her own. Of course, with no sort of alarm system whatsoever, that was a bit of a struggle. They liked waking her up with a kick to the ribs. Sometimes they’d go easy on her and just splash some foul-smelling liquid on her face. Other times when they were taking her out, they’d just throw her over a shoulder and she’d wake up being hauled from her cell without warning. At least when she woke herself up, she had some idea of who was coming in to take her away. It was usually a surprise- she hadn’t worked out any pattern or schedule that the Galra might’ve had for dealing with her.

When the door opened today, there was a soft whisper of a robe fluttering, as well as a low hiss that made her shudder. She’d come to know those sounds well. She hated those sounds. Those sounds meant a Druid had entered the room. Pidge would take a hundred Galra soldiers over a single Druid in the blink of an eye. While the Galra were cruel, the Druids were all downright sadistic. They were always finding new ways to tear her apart. And they never showed any interest in fixing her. She was losing. Huge parts of herself had been taken, and there was no way to put herself back together.

As a general rule, the Druids liked to work on her in her cell. Pidge wasn’t sure why. The only reason she could think of was that they were just lazy. The room had a bed and a small table right there for them to work with, and they didn’t even have to deal with the hassle of transporting her. To prove her point, the Druid that had entered her cell simply picked her up (ignoring her struggling) and tossed her onto the bed. Although she knew it was useless, Pidge still tried to get up and lurch for the door. She didn’t even get her back off the filthy mattress before a hand was pinning her back down.

This Druid’s voice was a bit higher pitched than some of the others, so Pidge decided to call her Jezebel. She had to make herself laugh, after all. “We’re trying something new today. An experiment.”

Oh, great. An experiment. There was a time when she loved that word. But now the thought of it filled her with terror. It wouldn’t be the mostly-harmless science experiments she had done so often. The Druid’s experiments were more a mix of Dahmer and Dr. Frankenstein. Morbid in every way possible, always resulting in some horrifyingly painful experiences. There was no point in her saying anything, so she kept her mouth shut.

“You humans have all sorts of little things holding you together. Bones, muscle tissue, blood vessels, and skin, all somehow containing one little human being. What happens when you remove on of those things? Or if you alter them? Normally we would search for both of those answers, but as you’re currently our only human specimen, we are going to be holding off on removing anything. Can’t risk you dying. But altering them? Now that is something we will do. My order has come up with some interesting ideas.” Jezebel placed a hand on her forehead and pushed her head back as she spoke. “Today we’ll be trying out my personal favorite.”

Pidge’s prison uniform was essentially a baggy tank top that didn’t even reach her knees, and left most of her skin exposed. It was really closer to tissue paper than clothing. Often times, it didn’t survive whatever it was that was being done to her in their daily sessions. On days that they were feeling extra cruel, the Druids wouldn't give her any fresh (‘fresh’ being used extremely loosely) clothes at all, and would just leave her in underwear and a ratty old sports bra. Pidge hated it when they did that. The threadbare garments didn’t do much to keep out the cold, but they were better than nothing. Not only that, but they offered at least a small modicum of modesty. Being left on display was just embarrassing.

Apparently this time, the Druid wanted to see what she was doing, so this was a day where she was left without her clothes. It didn’t take her too long to figure out why. Jezebel was focusing on the area over her heart. Then she slowly started tracing around her body- up her neck, down hers arms, across her stomach, and all the way to her feet. Pidge might’ve felt self-conscious once, but at this point she was growing unaffected. She was much more concerned with what was going to happen to her now. Jezebel was starting to summon some of that bright pink energy that Pidge had grown to hate with a passion. Pidge squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the pain. It never came. Instead, a pleasant heat began to flow through her. It was by far the most comforting thing she had felt since being captured. Against her better judgement, Pidge felt her muscles start to relax. When her eyes opened again, she saw the Druid looking down on her coolly. If she was satisfied with her work, it was hard to tell. Whatever she’d done, Pidge hadn’t yet noticed.

“This part might hurt a bit.” Jezebel had made a fist before she even finished talking, and a quick flash of electric pain surged through Pidge, drawing out a shocked gasp. But just as fast as it had happened it was gone.

Pidge craned her neck to see what had been done to her. She had always been rather pale, and that did lead to more easily visible veins in some areas. But when she looked down at her body, now she could clearly see the stark purple lines snaking all over her body. Like rivers flowing across her pale skin. Carrying something unknown and unwelcome through her. Her breathing started to pick up. She wanted to tear it out, no matter the consequences. A Druid had put it there, it couldn’t be anything good.

What purpose could they serve? Briefly, she looked up to ask, but found that she was alone. They looked similar to some natural Galran markings. Was this a brand? Why would they bother with that? No, there had to be more to it than she knew. Maybe some sort of tracking device. That would make more sense. If she ran, then she would be chased. Or if she was rescued, she would lead them right to Voltron. They didn’t want to give her up.

Once again, Pidge wondered why. She hadn’t divulged any secrets. And as far as she knew, they hadn’t made any attempts to contact Voltron to make a trade. It all led her with to think that they were just going to keep her as a lab rat to run tests on. They seemed fixated on the fact that she was human, like the concept was just totally foreign to them. Of course she supposed it was. The only other humans they’d ever seen was Shiro, Matt, and her father. He probably offered much more in the way of how humans work than she could. She was smaller and less developed than he was. Shiro was an adult, and she wasn’t even sixteen yet.

God, she missed Shiro. She missed all of them.

Taking a deep sigh, Pidge closed her eyes and tipped her head back miserably.

Where were they?

•••

“You humans continue to impress me.” Pidge knew that voice. This wasn’t just any Druid- this was Haggar. Fuck. When had she gotten here? If she was here, then that meant Pidge was really in for it. She had only encountered the head witch a handful of times, but each had led her to all new levels of pain. Haggar liked to take more of her away than any of the others. “You’re so resilient, for such fragile creatures. Your quintessence is strong, even in the weakest of you. The possibilities you present... is your Earth a largely populated planet?”

Why was she talking about Earth? There was no way Pidge was sharing any information about her home planet with Haggar, especially after she just mentioned quintessence. There were billions of people on the planet, bursting with life. If Haggar knew that, then no doubt the Earth would become the next Galra colony. So Pidge didn’t say anything.

Haggar didn’t exactly seem surprised. But she also wasn’t pleased. “I see. I wonder how much we will have to take from you to get you to talk. How much longer do you think you could last with us?”

“As long as it takes for my team to find me,” Pidge said with all the fierceness she could muster.

She was rather taken aback when Haggar started to laugh wickedly. “You still think they’re looking for you? You poor child, they’ve already replaced you! They have a new Green Paladin now. How do you think they’re still a fighting force against us? They’re still able to form Voltron. Why would they waste any more time to find you when they have no need for you?”

Pidge’s blood went cold. That wasn’t possible. They- they wouldn’t just leave her behind, not when there was a chance she was still out there. But then she remembered when Shiro had gone missing. They’d found a replacement for him, and he had been a more vital piece of the team than she was. And if they were forming Voltron... She hadn’t allowed herself to seriously consider that as a possibility, but now that she was faced with that, she had to. They weren’t coming for her, and the Galra weren’t giving her up. Pidge could feel her breathing start to pick up, and mentally kicked herself for showing weakness.

Why did it even matter? She couldn’t help but contemplate that. If she really was stuck here, then was there really any point in continuing to fight? Did she even have any useful information to offer? It had been so long since she’d been in contact with the Coalition, there was no way she could know any of their current plans. But Earth... her mother was still on Earth. Her poor mother, left alone without any shoulders to cry on.

Her family. That was why she was still resisting. Screw Voltron, she couldn’t risk the safety of her parents and her brother. They were the whole reason she had come to space, and if she couldn’t bring them back, then at least she wasn’t going to put them in danger. So Pidge grit her teeth, met Haggar in the eye, and shook her head. “I’m not turning them in. I won’t do it.”

Haggar’s smirk was enough to make her shudder, but not enough to make her break eye contact. “Then we’ll just have to work harder. You,” she snapped, turning to look at the Druid standing behind her, “go prepare her for extraction. We’re going to see just how much she has left inside her.”

Extraction?

And then she was being jerked up by the back of her collar and carried her off like she was a kitten. She hated it when they carried her, especially like this. They were mocking her, reminding her that she wasn’t the Lion she had once been anymore. It wasn’t like she was incapable of walking on her own. But she was shorter than they were, and they didn’t want to have to wait for her to try and keep up with them. At least they didn’t have to go very far. They took her down two halls, then to a room on the right.

Pidge had been expecting to feel the burn of their pink glowing magic wrap around her wrists and ankles. That wasn’t all that unusual. And being thrown carelessly onto a sterile table was old hat. She tried her hardest to stay calm- they always got excited if they thought she was scared. But she couldn’t keep herself from flinching when the Druid in front of her held up its hands to start summoning whatever sort of energy they planned to use on her this time. Maybe it was her imagination, but it looked like it might have chuckled when she did, and Pidge felt her cheeks burn.

Any embarrassment she might’ve felt quickly disappeared when she caught sight of another Druid following suit. And then another. And then another. And then she saw Haggar at her head, joining in. They’d never worked on her together like this before. Pidge’s heart started racing and her mind struggled to think of a way out of this. She had hardly made it this far, there was no way she could possibly survive what they had planned for her now.

“Wait- no, please-“

Bright white light surrounded her before she could finish saying anything. As soon as it came into contact with her skin, it turned a deep green, seeping out from her body. Pidge had thought she’d known what pain was. But when the Druids around her started leeching the life from her, everything she’d thought of as painful before went flying out the door.

She was surprised it had taken this long for the thought to come to her.

‘Just kill me already.’

But when the Druids were quite literally pulling the quintessence from her, she couldn’t help it. Feeling the life being sucked out of her body was by far the most horrendously painful thing she had ever felt. It was like every inch of her was being ripped apart and set ablaze. It wasn’t concentrated on any one place. Each and every one of her nerves were vibrating, telling her to get away from whatever was being done to her. She was screaming so loudly that one of the Druids paused and shoved a piece of cloth in her mouth to shut her up. That didn’t stop her from trying to shriek around it. At some point she probably lost the ability to make any sound at all, but she couldn’t feel her aching throat over everything else. She couldn’t even beg for them to stop. Couldn’t even plead for death.

Her brain didn’t seem to realize that they actually were killing her. Just very, very slowly. Draining her of her life force- there was probably a certain level of irony there that she couldn’t fully appreciate. How much were they robbing her of? How much more was there for them to steal? She was just a shell of a girl now. A small shadow of what she used to be.

She still struggled uselessly against them though. Suspended in the air by seven Druids, all led by Haggar, she didn’t stand a chance.

It took an eternity for them to finally finish with her this time. And when they did, her body went totally limp. It took all the strength she had just to keep her chest rising and falling. They may have stopped actively hurting her, but her whole body still felt like it was being forced too close to an open flame. Her skin blistered where the pink quintessence that was used to bind her with had been. Pidge couldn’t lift her head to look at herself, but she was able to angle her eyes down for a second. The only color left on her exposed skin was the dark purple veins that had been put inside of her. A low whimper was all she was able to must as her eyes rolled back to close. Tears slid out the corners and her chin started to tremble. Against her will, her breathing got heavier as her chest heaved and she started to sob. No sound was able to escape from her raw throat, and even if it could, she still had a gag in her mouth preventing her from making any noise. She couldn’t sit up. She was just left to lie uselessly on her back and cry. It all hurt so badly, and the sobbing only made it worse.

Eventually she got a hand up to pull the wad of fabric from her mouth and she coughed weakly. There was no recovering from this, she knew. Even if by some miracle she got out, she wouldn’t really be free. Fuck, it was so hard to catch her breath. She would do just about anything for a hug from her mom. Or her dad or brother. Anyone. All she wanted was to be shown a little tenderness. She could hardly remember what that felt like.

She could hardly remember what anything felt like.

She was just... empty.

•••

“We have received horrible news. Another of our precious planets has been taken from us by the Voltron Coalition.” This Druid’s voice was lower, and more masculine, so Pidge took that to mean that this one was a gentleman. She would call him John.

Her little name game didn’t keep her from feeling sick to her stomach though. She was going to be blamed for this, and punished. “I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t-“

“Why would you lie to us?”

“No! I didn’t lie, I promise! I didn’t!” Pidge winced and squeezed her eyes shut when she was backhanded across her face. That right there was a lie, and they all knew it. It had taken her ages to ‘crack’, and when she did, she gave them nothing but false information. She’d hoped to have been rescued already. By now she was sure than any Coalition operations being executed were ones that she wasn’t privy to, but she had proved to be untrustworthy, so she was taking the fall for every win Voltron had. She could say whatever she wanted and it wouldn’t make any different. It was enough to make her start to resent those wins.

It was enough to make her start resenting Voltron and her old team. Thinking of them always left a sting of betrayal in her chest. The assholes had left her behind. If she ever saw them again...

“You must know by now that we cannot believe you,” he said, voicing her thoughts. Once again, and hand struck her, although this time fingernails dragged over her cheek, drawing blood. Rather than retracting his claws, the Druid sent a wave of electric pain into her face. It felt like it was spreading across her skin, covering her entire face and reaching down to her neck. Just before it reached her chest, it was cut off when his hand was pulled away. Pidge’s eyes opened, and she groaned at what she saw.

“Have they told you what Voltron has done this time?” Haggar seemed to have taken an interest in her recently. More and more often, she was showing up to either watch or take part in hurting her. Somehow, she was always able to make it worse. This time she reached down and grabbed her by her bangs forcing Pidge to meet her eyes. “Well?”

“Y-yes, they-“

Haggar cut her off by seizing her neck and shaking her once, effectively proving that she wasn’t actually interested in what Pidge had to say. She just wanted to hear her scream. The witch looked bored already. And then she was pulling out a dagger, with a blade nearly a foot long. Pidge had seen that dagger before. She was already well acquainted with that dagger. It had been used on her several times. Carved her up, skinned her, sliced off little bits of her. She hated that dagger.

Today was different though. Haggar showed no interest in cutting her. Instead, she just gazed down at her with thinly veiled disgust. Disgust for what, Pidge couldn’t be sure. Weakness, most likely, or perhaps her humanity. No one here seemed to like those qualities. Whatever it was, it apparently didn’t warrant any explanation, and Haggar said nothing when she drove the knife straight through Pidge’s belly.

Her breath hitched, and her hands instinctively went up to hold her stomach. She looked down at where she was stabbed, not totally sure what to expect. Metal, shoved into her skin, blood spurting out, an aching pain that was like a mere bruise compared to some of the things she’d been through recently. She hadn’t really been expecting the relief. They were finally doing it. They’d finally decided she had no more use, so they were disposing of her. In a few short minutes, she would be free of them.

Pidge’s heart soared as she faced death. For the first time in forever, she felt... happy. Hell, she almost laughed. Instead, blood bubbled up her throat and she coughed, spewing red from her mouth. She wheezed around the metallic liquid that coated her throat. Her only regret right now was that Haggar would be the last thing she saw. And that it was taking too long. Death needed to hurry up and take her far away from here already.

She gasped when the knife was pulled out, and the blood started to flow out in earnest. Her life dripped out of her, leaving her cold and stiff. It didn’t hurt half as much as having her quintessence pulled from her. Pidge’s eye slid shut as her chest started to still.

But they flew back open when something slammed roughly into where she’d been stabbed and made her cough again. Looking down once again, Pidge was horrified to see Haggar using a dark ray of magic to start stitching her back together. It felt like she was being repeatedly hit with dozens of red hot needles. So this had just been another unfathomably cruel test.

“No- no, no, stop!” she sobbed, grabbing at her stomach like she was going to rip it back open again. “Please!”

“You know that you can make this all stop,” Haggar said coldly. “In fact, we could make life quite pleasant for you, if you do as we say. There’s no reason for you to keep fighting. Your team has abandoned you. If you submit to us, you will be rewarded. There will be no more pain. And we can reunite you with your family.”

Pidge was left gasping beneath her when the dark energy stopped channeling into her body. The sudden lack of pain was the most blissful thing she had ever experienced in her entire life. She was floating on clouds now, despite the occasional tremors that ran through her body. In that moment, Pidge broke. She had to do what they said. Anything to just keep from feeling more pain. To keep the little pieces of her that remained.

“Yes.” She opened her eyes to stare up into Haggar’s face. Her voice, despite still being ragged and hoarse, felt stronger now than it had been in who-knows-how-long. “I’ll do what you say. Whatever you want. I submit. Just please... stop.”

A satisfied hum, and Haggar walked out along with all the guards. Pidge was left there alone on her back, still panting. Occasionally a shudder would run through her body, but it was starting to clear off. As her mind cleared, Pidge started to realize what she had said to get them to leave. ‘Whatever you want.’ Shit. That was probably going to kick her in the ass.

•••

Pidge wasn’t sure why they had started feeding and hydrating her regularly. She didn’t really want to question it. Just having a full belly and a throat that didn’t feel like a desert was enough to make her start feeling marginally more human again, and she was going to take all she could get. By no means was she better, but at least she was miserable without hunger pangs.

And they had stopped taking her from her cell. They were more or less just leaving her alone. Which she was more than okay with. Solitude was preferable to constant torture. She couldn’t even bring herself to mind the boredom. She was able to sleep peacefully- at least, as peacefully as her mind would permit. Which wasn’t very peacefully. But she wasn’t being woken up with violence anymore.

It was hard to know just how long it was that they had left her alone. Not nearly long enough, in Pidge’s opinion. The Galrans who were escorting her this time acted differently. They were joking around with each other, and hardly acknowledged her after ushering her out of her four walls.

“Where are we going?”

“You’re going to entertain us for a little while,” one of them said casually. Hadn’t she been entertaining them already? She’d been being used and abused in the worst possible ways for fun since the day she arrived. What the fuck was this trip gonna entail? As they neared the stairs, Pidge could hear a crowd screaming and feet pounding against the floor. Then it hit her. The reason for the increase in food and water. The crowd. Entertainment. She was being taken to the arena. No way. Pidge tried uselessly to stop walking, but the guard seized a handful of hair and was able to simply jerk her up all the way off her feet and carry her. As they approached a set of large doors, Pidge was set down once again and found herself looking up at a Druid.

“You’ll like it” the Druid said. She was going to call this one Don. “Making them hurt instead of yourself. We’ll make it easy for you. The more you kill in the arena, the less we will have to visit you. If you try and let them survive, we will be forced to work on you some more. Kill them, and you will no longer suffer at our hands. Those are your options.”

Pidge didn’t like those options. She didn’t want to kill anyone, but the thought of being back at their mercy was rival to those feelings. Her basic survival instincts were screaming that she had to win. The other fighters were probably all criminals who deserved it. Although someone the Galra viewed as a bad guy had a fair chance of being on Voltron’s side. There was no way she could win.

“I won’t do it. You can’t make me fight,” Pidge said, hoping her voice was stronger than it felt. It wasn’t. She had lost all ability to actually resist them.

Don approached her and reached down to pinch her cheeks together. “We can, and you will. ‘Whatever we want,’ remember?”

She had said those words in a moment of desperation- she hadn’t really meant them. But she knew damn well that they could make her. Fuck. There was no getting out of this. Apparently that realization showed, as Don moved to the side, and the Galra who had marched her here shoved a knife in her hand. “Normally we don’t give our fighters any weapons until they’re already in there, but this is your first fight, so we’re giving you a bit of a head start.”

“Gee, thanks.” Pidge earned a strike to her back with the butt of a gun for her snark. Honestly, she was surprised she had managed to summon that little bit of sass.

‘I’ve done this before,’ she thought in an attempt to steel herself. ‘I’ve killed before and I’ll do it again. Survival. I just need to survive.’

Really, it wasn’t helping much. It didn’t do anything to cover the fact that she was still going to have to kill someone in cold blood. And at this point, she was having trouble remembering why she needed to survive in the first place. Her life hadn’t exactly been going great. She had lost all hope of being rescued. Her team had given up on her. As far as she could tell, there really wasn’t a whole lot to live for. It was only the fear of what might be done to her if she refused that convinced her to fight.

Pidge could hear other prisoners being gathered and shoved into line behind her. So she wasn’t being kept isolated anymore. How many of them would she have to face? Was this how Matt had felt? She didn’t have a Shiro here to save her though. She couldn’t make herself look over her shoulder at the people who she may end up having to kill. Pidge was lifted up by her upper arms by two hulking Galrans who set her down just inches away from a door that she knew opened out into the arena.

“We’re in for quite the treat today,” a voice boomed out over the building as the door opened. “Our returning victor- the Savage of Tythorp- will be facing a new opponent- a recently acquired Paladin of Voltron!”

That was met with wild cheers. Returning victor? Savage of Tythorp? Recently acquired? What the hell? It was like she was being announced in a sports tournament. Which, she supposed, in some sick way, it was to them. They weren’t even putting her up against another newbie. Why did Tythorp sound familiar? Pidge shuddered as she was pushed out into the arena. It was a huge space, and she felt incredibly small when she looked out onto the crowd. There were easily thousands of Galra out there to watch somebody get killed.

She was going to die here. It was cliché, she knew, but she’d always hoped she would die doing something she loved. Maybe accidentally blowing herself up or something. Not by the will of some sick purple monsters, and certainly not at the hands of some fucker who wanted to kill her in front of an excited crowd.

A door opened across from her, and another being stepped out into the arena. Pidge wanted nothing more than to just turn around and run back away from any fighting she would have to face in here. But when she glanced back, she found the door she had entered through had closed. She was trapped.

Okay. She needed to think of a way out of this. She wouldn’t make it back through the doors. It wasn’t likely that she would be able to climb the walls. All she had was a knife and a challenger that was starting to make its way towards her. Pidge held her knife aloft and took several deep breaths. Her opponent wasn’t that much larger than she was- roughly around the same size as Keith. How could this guy have a cool nickname like the Savage of Tythorp? She had held her own against Keith. Hopefully this guy wouldn’t be too much different.

No sense in putting it off. She would need a closer look at him if she wanted to win. So she started to approach him cautiously as well. Pidge stared hard at him, taking in everything she could. The alien had extremely long arms, that gave him a reach advantage. But they didn’t look incredibly strong, and she had a feeling that she could break free of his grip somehow if she needed to. In fact, his whole body was rather beanpole-ish. Tall and skinny, with not much for muscle anywhere that she could see. Why did this alien look familiar? It looked like... fuck, she couldn’t remember. That was going to drive her nuts.

But she couldn’t let it cloud her mind. Unlike some of the other brutes she had encountered in space, this one was actually fairly humanoid. It seemed fair to assume that its internal setup would be similar to that of a person as well. If that were true, then she knew what vital areas she would need to go for. The neck would be the most obvious, and the quickest if she could reach it. The stomach could be promising. The head, although it would most likely be the hardest area for her to reach.

They met at the center of the arena far too soon for Pidge’s liking. Brandishing her knife, Pidge crouched down to make herself an even smaller target. Before she made any move to attack, she needed to know just how fast this alien was. So she lunged to the left, and was shocked to run into one long arm almost immediately. Either that was a total fluke, or he was far faster than she had expected. Pidge desperately hoped it was the former of the two as she ducked and rolled under his grasp. As soon as she was up though, she had to fall back a step to avoid getting slugged in the face. On instinct, Pidge slashed the knife up in front of her where the fist had just been. She was pleased to feel it make contact with something, and to hear the wince that came out of the alien’s mouth.

She didn’t have time to celebrate though. Now was the time to take two more steps backwards and reevaluate a plan with the knowledge that this thing was much faster than she had bargained for. There really wasn’t much for options though. All she could really think to do was charge at him and hope for the best.

Pidge found herself wishing for some sort of wrist strap for her knife. If she lost it, then she lost the biggest advantage she had. And in a situation like this, she needed all the advantages she could get. All she managed to do was land a few cuts on her opponent’s arms and hands before he got ahold of her shirt collar and threw her across the arena to slam into one of the large support beams. Pidge collapsed to the floor, momentarily stunned. She was able to get her wits together fairly quickly, and was back on her feet in a tick.

“Ooh, and the Paladin of Voltron takes a hard hit from the Tythorpian!” Pidge had always considered sports narrators to be annoying as a general rule, but now that there was one announcing every hit she took, she found an all new hatred for them. How one disembodied voice could be so grating was beyond her.

Then it hit her. Tythorp. Was this fighter from the last planet she had liberated with Voltron? No wonder why he looked so familiar. It was because she’d seen scores of Tythorpians.

“Wait! Are you really a Paladin?” Her opponent asked, stopping his attack to stare at her intently.

She froze. She honestly had no idea how to answer that. After all this time, was she still the Green Paladin? They had apparently replaced her. The sudden thought of the Green Lion brought back a longing in her chest that she’d thought had vanished a long time ago. After a brief moment of consideration, she nodded curtly. She was dismayed to see the way her opponents eyes lit up.

“Oh- oh thank goodness!” The alien’s weapon clattered to the ground- Where has that come from?- and tears of relief filled his one eye. “My people are a part of the Voltron Coalition! You must be here to save us!”

Pidge’s breath caught. Her opponent thought he had found a savior. Instead he was facing an executioner. This was worse than if he’d wanted to kill her. Pidge was frozen in place as the alien dropped to his knees with his head to the ground in front of her, like she was some sort of goddess. There was no way she could follow through with this. She stared down at the dagger in her hand, and gasped when she saw the purple veins there start to glow a bright pink. A startled shriek escaped her as pain blistered from her fingertips, and spread down into her hand and wrist. It was a terrible burning shock, reminiscent of when the Druids had started draining her of her quintessence, but all focused on one part of her body. Pidge groaned when it intensified and started to creep up her arm to her shoulder, then spread out towards her chest. The muscles on her right arm were jerking erratically, and of their own accord. So this was what the Druid had done. Why try and track a dog when they could use a shock collar to keep it contained? She knew what the message was. Kill her opponent, or the pain would continue to spread.

She stared down at the alien on the floor in front of her. He looked so vulnerable- he was so sure that she was there to help him. God, she wished he would get up and fight. Everything about this felt wrong, but especially killing him while he was down and had no way of defending himself. The pain started to lessen as she raised the knife above her head.

“I’m sorry.”

He looked up to her just as she swung the blade down into his neck. As soon as she felt it pierce into the muscle, she jerked the knife up, then out. The best she could hope for now was that he would at least have a quick death.

Adrenaline was coursing through her. Pidge would never forget the look in his eye when he gasped and reached up to press a hand to his wound. Shock and fear. Betrayal. All caused by her. Without thinking, she knelt down to tenderly cup the side of his face, as though to try and comfort him. His hand came to clutch her shirt tightly. Blood was spurting out from his neck, covering her hand and arm and hiding the purple energy that flowed through her veins. It felt like it took forever for his grip to loosen and for him to tip over to the ground. In reality, it took only moments, and she was jolted back by the cheers of thousands of Galrans. They were cheering for her victory. For his loss. She had to take another moment before she was able to stand again.

She was panting, staring down at her hands. She’d killed before. When she piloted an alien warship, that kind of went with the job. But never... never like this. For entertainment. This felt wrong on so many levels. Despite remaining still, Pidge still found she couldn’t catch her breath. The cheers of the audience were deafening, but she was only hearing it in random waves of terrible self-awareness. Her brain was trying its hardest right now to separate herself from where she was at. From what she’d had to do.

“A beautiful defeat by the little underdog! Who would’ve thought such a tiny creature could’ve put up such a fight? Her next opponent might just be in for more of a struggle than she was expecting. Stick around and stay tuned for this upcoming round everyone, you’ll be in for a real treat!” A voice overhead boomed, making her flinch.

From what she would have to do.

•••

“You enjoyed it.”

Pidge couldn’t see the Druid’s face, but she had a suspicion that he was grinning. It felt like her whole body was shaking. How had she made it through that? She was covered in blood and sweat. She was desperately thirsty, and felt like she could sleep for a month. If there was such a thing as hell, then that arena couldn’t be too far from it.

But the worst part was that she had enjoyed it. For the first time in a long time, she felt strong. She hadn’t been the one getting hurt. She’d played their game and won.

She had been told that if she went along with this, then there would be no more pain. That was all that mattered to her anymore. If she wasn’t getting out, then she was going to give them their goddamn show.