"'You'll be quicker alone', they said," Pidge hissed to herself as she skidded around the corner, a group of Galra soldiers hot on her tail. "'It'll be in and out', they said." She grunted as a shot from one of the Galra blasters flew past her visor, narrowly missing taking her head off. Last time I listen to Coran, I swear to god.
She had been sent to infiltrate a Galra cruiser in search of the location of a base that had been causing a lot of trouble for some nearby planets, cutting off food and medical supplies until they would be too weak to refuse the Galran reign any longer. She had been told that the Galra stationed in this base wouldn't suspect a thing, and that if she was quick and quiet, she would be in and out before they even realised she was there at all.
That was what she had been told.
But, of course, when did anything ever go her way. The moment she had touched one of the screens in the control room, the alarms were blaring, and the heavy footsteps of Galra soldiers were echoing down the corridor she had just come in from.
Which was how Pidge found herself in her current situation. She had entered the ship through the landing bay, her Paladin suit and a little tinkering on her part allowing her to sneak aboard unnoticed. She doubted she would achieve a similar exit. She knew that the landing bay was bound to be full of soldiers waiting for her, and that even if she did make it back to the small Altean craft landed on a nearby moon, there would be too many ships in pursuit of her for her to escape safely. She cursed, and reached into the pouch hidden on the inside of her belt.
Only use this if you absolutely have to, Allura had told her sternly, as if Pidge hadn't already known. I doubt you'll have to, this looks to be a simple mission. Still, we can't be too careful.
Pidge sprinted around another corner only to find herself confronted by even more Galra. She cursed again, and looked at the small communicator in her hand, the red button on it glowing. She looked at the enemies in front of her, and turned to the ones behind her, and knew herself to be outnumbered. She also knew that if they meant to kill her, they would have done so already.
"Dammit," she muttered, and pressed the button before dropping the communicator and crushing it beneath her heel. One of the Galra in front of her stepped forward - Pidge recognised him as the commander from a hologram Coran had shown her.
"Drop your weapon!" Pidge bared her teeth, but loosened her grip on her gun nonetheless. No point in fighting, she reminded herself. I'm outnumbered. They'll kill me.
She glared as two of them approached her, cuffs in their hands. She glared as another lifted the crushed communicator from the floor, turning it over in their hands and trying to figure out what it was. She glared as they questioned her, and she glared in silence. She was still glaring when they tore her helmet from her head.
She was still glaring when a blow to the back of her head knocked her unconscious.
Just have to wait now, she thought, as her awareness faded. The others will come for me.
Pidge woke to one hell of a headache. She groaned softly as she lay there, trying to assess the damage before moving. Concussion, she surmised, but other than that she didn't identify any other glaring issue or injury. She slowly and carefully pushed herself up, wincing as her head span, and managed to maneuver herself until she was seated with her back against the wall. She released a shaky breath, and opened her eyes.
The glaring purple lights did nothing to help her headache, nor did the realisation that she had been placed in a small cell. She swallowed thickly, wishing desperately for some water to soothe her dry throat, and cursed. I called the others, she remembered. They'll be coming. I just have to wait. Sighing, Pidge leaned her head against the wall behind her.
And she waited.
She was given a small canteen of water at some point, which she spent a good ten minutes examining before she reluctantly deemed it safe enough to consume. Some time later the empty canteen was collected from her, the guards refusing to even acknowledge her questions about where they were taking her, her threats that the other Paladins would come for her, her promises that they were going to regret this. She was left alone again.
They're coming, she kept reminding herself. Just wait. They'll be here any minute.
But 'any minute' was supposed to be hours ago. Did they lose my signal? Pidge began to worry. Did the Galra intercept them? Were they ready for them, like they were for me? What if they're already in cells like mine?
Time wore on, Pidge's headache waxing and waning with every passing hour. She thought she might have even slept for a time, since she opened her eyes to a new canteen which she hadn't heard being passed through to her.
She waited, and waited.
She waited until she couldn't any longer.
Either they've been captured already, or they can't come for me, she figured. Either way, I'm not just going to sit around and let the Galra deliver me to Haggar. She stood, biting her lip against the nauseating throbbing in her head, and made her way over to the door. The canteen had been given to her at least an hour ago, so she knew that the guards would be back to retrieve it soon. She examined it, measuring its weight in her hand.
It was solid metal. Not near as heavy and sturdy as she would have liked, but she guessed it would be enough to get her out of the cell at least. She couldn't remember any of the Galra soldiers wearing helmets. She could also grab a blaster from one of them as she went, if the opportunity presented itself. Pidge examined the door. The mechanisms seemed like they would be simple enough to crack, but it would take time. Time that she wasn't sure she had. The first plan seemed like the safest.
She sighed and returned to her spot seated by the wall, resting but not allowing herself to become too relaxed. She would need to be ready. She winced as sharp pain pulsed through her head, her stomach churning. She pressed her hand tightly over her mouth, willing herself not to throw up. It was bad enough she was trapped in a cell with a concussion and dwindling hope of rescue, the last thing she needed was the added stench of vomit. She closed her eyes, and willed the nausea away.
When she opened them again the canteen was gone, along with her chance.
"Fuck," she growled, slapping her hands against her cheeks in a belated effort to stay awake and alert. She squeezed her eyes shut against the hot tears building behind them.
I won't give up, she told herself firmly. Next time. She sighed again.
Back to waiting.
She didn't fall asleep next time.
She held the new canteen securely in her hands, body pressed flat against the wall next to the door. When the door hissed open and the guards walked in, she brought the metal container down hard on an unprotected head, and smirked at the satisfying crack. The guard crumpled to the floor, leaving the second one stunned behind them. They recovered quickly, though, and Pidge barely had time to duck before they were firing at the space where her head had been. It was at times like these - and only at times like these - that Pidge was overwhelmingly grateful for her short stature, as what she lacked in height she more than made up for in speed.
The Galran's next shot missed, and Pidge swiped out her leg in a wide arc that knocked them off their feet. She grabbed for their blaster, and after a few tense moments managed to wrestle it out of their grasp. She didn't miss, landing a shot in the center of their chest. She was out the door before the Galran had even registered that they had been shot.
Pidge sprinted down long purple corridors, determinedly ignoring the pounding in her head, shooting at any Galra she came across before they even had a chance to recognise her as the prisoner they were meant to be delivering.
This isn't going to work, she realised as she rounded another corner to find an almost identical corridor stretching ahead of her. I need some kind of plan here, some direction to actually head in.
As she thought this the alarms started to blare.
"Fuck," she swore vehemently, already hearing the rumbling of heavy footsteps from behind her signalling a far greater number of Galra soldiers than she was capable of dealing with single-handed. She cursed again, and kept running.
She turned a corner - more corridor. Turned another, still more. Her already aching head began to spin. What the fuck is this place, she thought desperately, as fear began to set in. There's no fucking end to it.
She turned the next corner, and came face to face with the commander and a group of soldiers. Pidge turned back around as they trained their guns on her, only to find that the group chasing her had caught up.
She was cornered. Again.
"Shit, shit, shit," she muttered under her breath as she tried to figure out what her next move should be.
There isn't a next move, idiot, the more rational part of her brain told her. You're well and truly fucked. She grit her teeth, meeting the commander glare for glare, and reluctantly lowered her own gun, letting it fall from her lax grip. She growled as the commander smirked.
"Take it back to the cell and wait for me there," he ordered, turning and striding away without a backward glance at Pidge. She swallowed thickly as her arms were snatched up in steel grips and a group of Galra began the long march back to her cell. Fear pooled in her stomach, and she did her best to ignore it.
They hadn't bothered cleaning the blood off the floor, though the guards she had taken out had been removed. She was shoved roughly into the cell, and dragged over to the wall facing the door. Two of the Galra kicked her knees out from under her, then lifted her arms until they were pressed against the wall. A third produced two separate metal cuffs from their belt, and secured one around each of Pidge's wrists. She was jerked back forcefully as the cuffs attached themselves to the wall. Magnetic, she surmised, biting back a groan. Great.
None of the Galra spoke to her as they all waited for the commander to arrive, and Pidge said nothing to them. She doubted she could come up with anything snarky like Lance would, or anything brave like Keith would. Because she sure as hell didn't feel brave right now. Right now, fear was clawing its way up her chest and into her throat, so thick that she could barely breathe around it. She flinched when the commander entered, and fought to keep her breathing steady.
He was still smirking, looking as though her attempted escape was what he had been waiting for. What he had been hoping for. He stared at her, no doubt recognising the growing terror in her pale face, covered in a sheen of sweat, her too wide eyes that she was barely managing to keep dry, the tight set of her jaw. His smirk widened.
"Take off its boots," came the command. Pidge felt her stomach drop, and tried to pull her legs in under her - but fear was making her slow, and the Galra were upon her before she could move more than a few inches. She growled and thrashed and spat, but it did nothing to stop them from pinning her legs down, peeling away the armour around her legs and yanking off her heavy boots, leaving her feet bare against the cold metal floor of the cell.
The commander's smirk widened into a cruel grin, and he pulled a long, thin metal rod from behind his back. Pidge swallowed thickly, knowing what was coming next.
"I have heard the Green Paladin was the clever one," the commander said blithely, walking towards her slowly and crouching down beside her outstretched legs. "I've been waiting for something like this to happen. I'll admit, you got further than I thought you would. It's been fun," he reached out and took one of her ankles in his hand, lifting it until it rested on his thigh, "but I'm afraid it can't happen again." Pidge squeezed her eyes shut as the metal rob swung down hard against the sole of her foot. She bit her lip against a scream, but the hits kept coming and coming and coming, and she was crying out before she even realised it. She didn't even notice when he stopped and moved on to the next foot until the pain began.
By the time he was satisfied, Pidge was sobbing. The Galra finally released their grips on her, and she tried to curl into herself as much as she could, whimpering when her lacerated feet dragged along the floor. She kept her eyes closed as he heard the commander stand and walk away from her, and when he next spoke, he was standing in the doorway.
"You won't be running again," he said, still speaking in that neutral, unconcerned tone, as though he hadn't just whipped Pidge's feet bloody. "Though you're welcome to try." The door closed, and Pidge was left alone. She opened her eyes slowly, and, after checking she was truly alone, began sobbing in earnest.
As one of the Paladins of Voltron, she had become no stranger to taking risks, to putting herself in danger and getting injured in the process. But this - she had never experienced such acute agony, such focused cruelty from another person. It was terrifying.
She looked at her feet, and sobbed harder. The tender flesh was torn and bruised and swollen, and blood had spatter up her ankles. The commander was right - Pidge wouldn't be capable of even standing, let alone running, with her feet like this.
There was no hope of escaping now.
She cried for what felt like a long time, exhaustion and fear and pain getting the better of her. And after her tears were spent, and the pounding in her head had become almost blinding, and her feet had gone from agonising to terrifyingly numb, she fell asleep.
Pidge woke to alarms blaring. She woke slowly, and groggily wondered how long the alarms had been blaring. She had barely moved an inch before the pain in her feet had her moaning and pulling at the cuffs still fastened around her wrists. Her headache hadn't lessened either, and the racket wasn't helping any. She cast her weary, confused gaze around the room, wondering what the issue was -
Rescue, she realised, remembering with sudden clarity that she had, in fact, called for help. The Galra are under attack. Voltron is here. They've come. They've finally fucking come for me -
The door hissed open, and the noise seemed to double in volume. Pidge winced, and squinted her eyes in the direction of whoever was standing in the doorway. She caught a flash of red and white, and almost began weeping all over again.
"Keith," she tried to whisper, her voice failing in her dry and exhausted throat. Keith seemed frozen where he stood, taking in the purple blood pooled at his feet, and the bloody Green Paladin cuffed to the wall. But when Pidge moaned again he was at her side in an instant.
"Pidge, are you - shit," he was looking at her feet with wide eyes, looking more horrified and more infuriated than she could ever remember seeing him. He lifted his eyes to meet hers. "You won't be able to walk, will you?" Pidge closed her eyes and shook her head, listening to him curse and call for Hunk over the comms. She opened her eyes again when she felt his hand on her wrist.
"Th-they're magnetic," she whispered. Keith nodded and bit his lip, then pulled out his knife from behind his back. He got to work wedging the blade in between the cuff and the wall, grunting with the effort. After a few tense seconds of struggling, in which they were both painfully aware of the approaching sounds of gunfire and shouting, Keith finally managed to slide the knife in between the two surfaces, and pry Pidge's wrist from the wall. He stepped over her sprawled legs and immediately got to work on the other wrist.
A Galra soldier appeared at the door - Pidge had grabbed Keith's bayard and fired at them before Keith had even realised they were there. He looked at her, shocked, for a short moment, before getting back to work on the cuff. Just as he got it free, the doorway filled again. Pidge just barely managed to stop herself from taking Hunk's head off.
"Oh, shit. Oh, shit - P-Pidge, that looks - bad. That looks really, really bad-"
"Hunk!" Keith's voice cut through his babble harshly, and Hunk turned his eyes away from her mangled feet to stare at him instead. "I can't carry her out of here, so you need to. I can cover you."
Hunk swallowed thickly, and Pidge wondered vaguely if he was going to be sick. She also wondered if she was going to be sick - she sure as hell felt sick. Sick from pain, and exhaustion, and fear, and relief. She was still lost in thought when Hunk scooped her up. He was being careful, Pidge knew that, but she still couldn't quite hold back her whimper as her feet were shifted.
"Sorry, sorry, sorry," Hunk was whispering as he and Keith sprinted out the cell. Pidge looped her arms around his neck and shut her eyes tightly. The sounds were unbearably loud, and she was being painfully jostled with every step that Hunk took, and her feet were so, so sore.
In the end she didn't throw up. She passed out instead.
When Pidge emerged from the pod, her bare feet hit the floor first. The memory of pain shot through her like a bolt of lightning, and she gasped, falling to her knees and waiting for agony. It never came. A hand rested upon her shoulder instead, and she looked up into the concerned face of the Black Paladin.
"Sh-Shiro?" He smiled at her sadly, squeezing her shoulder.
"Hey, Katie," he said quietly, "how you feeling?" She swallowed, and turned look at her feet. The blood was still there, dried and cracked and so dark it almost looked black, but when she tentatively flexed her toes there was no pain. None at all. "Pidge?"
"I-I'm fine. I think. It doesn't hurt anymore."
She tore her gaze away from her feet and looked at Shiro again, becoming aware of the other Paladins standing a few paces behind him. Hunk was dangerously pale, and Pidge didn't doubt for a second that he had thrown up at some point. Keith was still sporting that dangerous glare of his, but it softened ridiculously when Pidge met his gaze. Lance stepped forward hesitantly, and crouched next to Shiro. He looked at her with tear-filled eyes, looking so worried and so relieved and so sorry that Pidge couldn't help but tip forward into his arms. He caught her and held her tight, as Shiro rose and moved to stand with the other Paladins.
"We're so glad you're okay, Pidge," came Allura's voice from behind her. She turned her head as much as she could, and was grateful when the princess stepped forward into her line of sight. When Pidge's eyes found her face, it looked extremely apologetic. And sure enough, "And we're so sorry we took so long. The Galra, they blocked our signal - they were prepared for us, all along. I - I should have known-"
"No, Princess," came Coran's weary voice from behind Pidge. The advisor came to stand beside Allura, "I was the one in charge of reconnaissance - I should have-"
"Wasn't your fault, either of you," Pidge reassured them, closing her eyes as exhaustion began creeping up on her again. Shiro, through whatever weird sixth sense he developed from looking after Keith for so long, seemed to sense that she wasn't going to last much longer.
"Hunk," he said, "why don't you fix something up for Pidge while she gets cleaned up? Then you can rest, Pidge." She nodded, Lance's t-shirt soft against her cheek, and heard Hunk take off at a sprint in the direction of the kitchen. She took another moment to breathe, to take account of the lack of pain in her body and of danger in the room. She basked in the company of her friends, and found that she forgave them for taking so long.
Lance helped her to her feet, and it didn't hurt at all. Pidge stood for a moment, so overcome with relief that tears sprung to her eyes.
"Pidge," she looked at Lance, and at Keith standing hesitantly behind him. Lance looked concerned, and put his hand on her shoulder, "You good?"
"Yeah," she said, somehow managing to smile at them both. "Yeah, I will be."