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Species: Human

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It had been 2,572 years since the universe had seen widespread warfare. The Paladins of Voltron were buried under dirt and fading memory, living on in story. In their footsteps came a generation of peace-keepers, of innovators, of diplomats. They weren’t the only ones who left a legacy.
Reasonably, Lotor was not given the same treatment as the Paladins. Being on the wrong side of history, his account was approached with significantly less warmth. While most historians were in agreement that the end of his life was a narrative of corruption and violence, most were in unison that his ability to lead soared far above Zarkon's. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t, by definition, a dictator. His methods of ruling weren’t even on the same book as the other Galra's of that time—much less the same page. In the beginning, scholars believed his key to ruling was freedom. They now knew that they were mistaken. Lotor ruled through understanding.
After all this time, there was a discovery. Ruins of an ancient ship were disentombed after an earthquake on planet Vulxuno. The event had uncovered a cave complex not far beneath the surface which spanned for miles and miles. Scientists took dust samples from the rock walls and theorized that the planet had been in orbit around the location where the Paladins fought Lotor in the quintessence field over 2,000 years prior. The scientists concluded that the massive energy surges in the area must have been so vast that they rearranged the planet’s surface. Vulxuno had no record of an ancient population. There were no records carved into pillars, no artifacts half-shattered in the dust. Finding the ship was a surprise.
The vessel had eroded, but its colors were clear. Blue, orange, grey. The colors belonged to Kova, the Witch's feline. Lotor borrowed them during his rule. Many of the ship’s chambers had been lost to time, but not the control room. That left thousands—maybe millions of files to sift through. Vulxuno's caverns might have mocked them with their gaping uselessness, but this data would change how history was written.
There were the records of the period’s events, of course. Ship logs, the like. Strategies to conquer Voltron. Lists of planets under Galra rule. All valuable, all first hand, but exactly what the historians expected. However, there was something else. Something hidden away in the deepest folders of the ship’s data. A large file listed ‘Peoples.’ When opened, this file displayed hundreds more folders, each labeled with the name of a race Lotor came into contact with at one point in his tumultuous life. Balmerans. Puigians. Taujeerians. Even Alteans. The files kept a record of customs, what offended the people and what didn’t, the typical greetings, anything Lotor could find. Some files had more data than others. Perhaps he had been jumping from planet to planet, paranoid in his exile. This pattern was broken with a particular folder. The largest one.
Humans. Native planets: Earth. Genders: Male and Female. Lifespan: 80 Deca-Phoebs. Languages: Various. Skin color: Brown based neutral tones (various). The file dragged on for pages. Chapters. Volumes. Conspiracy theorists began their rants. Lotor was secretly half-human. This wasn't Lotor's ship at all, but a Paladin's. He had stolen the information from the Paladins during their brief alliance. None were correct, none backed up by anything but crazed speculation. Mindless deductions. There was a true story, of course, but it would never reach the ears of these desperate theorists. No, not even the historians would know the truth. But you will.

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        Y/n didn’t want to be in space. They loathed the lack of support it offered. Cosmic travel, to them, was drifting slowly away from the home they gripped so fervently to their heart. Or at least it felt that way.
        They had been sent to Kerberos for a mission (because that went so well last time) and had nearly arrived. The journey had taken two months so far; it had been two months since they'd felt grounded, two months since they'd sauntered into the woods to smell the pine trees, two months since the ocean's breath had chapped their lips and quarreled with their hair.
        Y/n didn’t want to be in space, so why were they there? Why be an astronaut? Why not ignore their family’s dreams for them, defy their teachers who praised them? Why not reject the only scholarship they’d received? Not even Y/n knew a satisfying answer. But written lessons led to simulations, and soon enough here they were. Flying to the edge of the solar system. Alone. Well, not exactly. There were other members of the crew—the pilot, a headstrong girl named Mylie Davis. A gawky engineer named Elliot Hill who felt that mumbling to himself was of higher value than mingling with others. A communications technician with hair dyed green so vivid that it burned Y/n’s eyes (his name was Marty Allen). There was Reggie Wilson, the navigator who seemed stiff beyond his years, and Latisha Walker, the mechanic who never failed to put too much trust in the wrong people (and to smile through it).
        Then there was Y/n. Don't be mistaken, they hadn't isolated themself. The crew had been nothing but warm to them since they joined the group in their second year at the academy. Y/n tried their best to return their fondness, but there was a wall between them. That wall was passion. Putting it simply, Y/n didn’t grow up with their eyes on the stars. They weren’t fascinated by a ship’s working parts or the scientific breakthroughs occurring every other week during the second space race. They had dreams, of course, but dreams of Earth. Not a day went by when they didn’t wonder what they could have achieved if they’d followed those dreams instead.
        The closer they got to Kerberos, the more Y/n persuaded themself that this was a doomed mission. Last time a crew had gotten this far, they hadn’t come back. Y/n wondered if they’d see decayed skeletons crystallized with frost coasting among the stars. Feeling colder than before, they moved their fixation elsewhere. While they were intent on scrutinizing the dashboard, the rest of the crew had their eyes fixated on the moon before them. The blue-gray surface was distant from the deeply saturated image of Earth. Not nearly comforting.
        “All systems stable. Begin prep for landing.”
        “Got it.” Y/n and their crewmates worked together to begin their descent into the atmosphere. Just like the simulations, but without the training wheels of real life waiting to console them if they failed.
        What wasn’t expected was the roar of another ship. Rumbling and full of command, it reminded Y/n of the sounds they’d hear on National Geographic. They couldn't place what specific animal it reminded them of, though.
        “What was that?” The pilot craned her neck to see out the front window at an angle. The other four (including Y/n) gathered closer with the same purpose.
        “Is that a ship?”
        “It looks like a…” A lion. That’s what it had sounded like. And, evidently, it looked the part as well. The blue-plated robotic stranger seemed to be running from something—not a very lion-like thing to do, Y/n admitted to themself. They decided it was far more important to determine who the "predator" was fleeing.
        “Holy shit,” muttered Mylie, squinting like she thought she was dreaming.
        “What is it?” Y/n pushed past their crewmates and queasiness to get a better look. When they saw the new arrival, their jaw went slack.
        “Oh my god…” It was a cruiser larger than the entire academy. Dark purple and angular, it clearly had more firepower than anything Earth had ever seen. They had assumed that if ships like these flew so close to Earth, someone would have told them. Was the truth buried away in a confidential file, or was this a clue to the termination of the previous Kerberos mission?
        Silence swallowed the crew. No one dared touch the controls. Mission completion was no longer the highest priority. They gazed powerlessly into the cold stare of space as the lion-ship maneuvered closer to their ship. Close enough to be a hazard. When the pseudo-feline roared, the room shook. Several crew members covered their ears, but Y/n couldn’t move. Not when space warped in front of them. Blue-black energy intertwined with grey light to meet at a swirling apex—whatever this was, it was bending the pattern of the stars to its will. Too close to the churning hole in space to make out the boundaries and too far from Earth to call for help, the ship was jerked into the void. Y/n knew it would be quite a long time before they'd smell pine again.

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        The navigation systems were inoperable. No one was quite sure why. Perhaps the portal they'd come through had thrown off some odd interference. Reggie spent a few moments pouring over his tech, searching the stars for a signal that would help him pinpoint their position. The celestial bodies responded by giving him a headache and telling the undesirable truth. No one had any idea where they were. Only that they were far away from anything they knew and needed.
        “Should we follow them?” Elliot was the first to speak up after the numb silence. The Blue Lion cruised towards an earth-like planet, unaware of the bystanders it’d brought ruin to.
        “We don’t know if they’re a friendly or not,” Replied Reggie, fidgeting away the energy burst that came with a lack of occupation. “And you saw what kind of things they attracted back there. They have enemies.” Another silence. He was probably right.
        The planet ahead was almost familiar if Y/n squinted their eyes to blur the land shapes. But the oceans were too blue, the land too yellow. Letting go of false hope, they shut their eyes for a period instead.
        “Why not put it to a vote?” They suggested after dragging themself back to reality, mostly to sidetrack their freight train of a thought process. They were greeted with mumbles of agreement.
        And it was nearly a tie, too. Mylie, Elliot, Reggie, and Y/n voted to find a more trustworthy landing spot. Marty and Latisha voted against them. There were no hard feelings, of course. Even with the vastness space provided, there wasn’t room for a grudge on their tiny ship.
        “Where to?” Y/n asked, leaning on the pilot’s chair to look over the controls. Everything seemed in order. No alarms screeched in protest of their new situation. Mylie didn’t answer—she didn’t even look like she had heard them. Her eyes were fixated on something Y/n couldn’t see, something beyond the stars. Those eyes were not usually as misty as they were now.
        “Oh! Sorry.” She shook off her jolt into the present by messing with a few buttons. “I’m thinking we head north and hope for the best?”
        “We don’t know which way north is,” muttered a very discouraged Reggie.
        “Left it is.” A few button pushes and lever flicks later, she set a course to nowhere. Besides the unfamiliar stars and the newfound lack of purpose, the crew fell back into their comfortable routine. Hours came and went, but they were used to the waiting.
        Weeks came and went. Two weeks and three days passed, and not another planet appeared on the radar. Not an asteroid, not a ship, not even a distant shape. Only distant nebulas and twirling galaxies kept them company now. Of course, there were still many months of supplies on their ship, but the silence was still disturbing. What if they were light-years away from the next solar system? For all they knew, chance could be blindly tugging them into the path of a black hole.
        Y/n spent most of the journey in their bunk so they weren’t suffocated by the nearly blank sheet of black that greeted the window. Keeping them company were a few not-so-legal things that they’d brought with them. Not illegal as in owning an exotic animal as a pet, illegal as in “violating the stupid rule that you can’t bring personal objects into space” illegal. Stupid spaceships and their stupid weight capacities. Among the hoard was an old cell phone with some earbuds. A half-filled notebook and mechanical pencil. A wallet that, instead of money, held polaroids and other keepsakes. If Y/n’s crewmates had noticed their illegal luggage, they hadn’t brought it up. They guessed that the others might have broken the same rule. Space didn’t seem as heavy when you carried a bit of home with you. Of course, Y/n had packed their things assuming that they would be returning to the home they sought to remember.
        They would get back to Earth. They had to. After stealing a glance at the polaroids and sweeping the clutter under their pillow, Y/n left for the control room again.
“SHIT!” Y/n barely had time to process the expletive before a metal projectile prompted them to duck. It rattled on the floor, looking like it had been very important to the ship’s internal workings. Stumbling to the side, Y/n began to search for the origin. They didn’t have to look very far. Latisha stumbled out from what they knew to be a maintenance room. She was covered head to toe with grease (normal occurrence) and some soot as well (not-so-normal occurrence). After a few heavy breaths and an exchange of panicked stares, they seemed to share the same thought—explosions are bad. We should probably let everyone know.
        “Mylie!” They yelled in unison. The pair had rushed through the ship’s narrow corridors to get to her.
        “Is it the oxygen? The water tanks?”
        “No,” gasped Latisha, still winded from the short sprint.
        “An attack?”
        “No, thank god. The engines.”
        “Unless we can find a repair shop in the middle of open space.” In response, Mylie cursed. Loudly. This lured the rest of the group into the room—Latisha muttered the situation to them while Mylie wore out the floor with her pacing. Fuming, she was a few moments away from punching a hole through the wall, which wouldn’t do her fist (or the wall) any good.
        “Hey,” Marty said, approaching her. Y/n gave him a lot of credit for that. An angry Mylie was perhaps more threatening than a massive mechanical lion. “Look on the bright side, a-”
        “What bright side?” She pivoted to shout, her face discolored. “Tell me, Mr. Allen, what is so good about this situation? There’s no silver lining-” She scrunched her hair to the back of her head with a fist. “Unless by some astronomical fluke we manage to drift into a planet’s path and they send a rescue team—because god knows we can’t land like this—we are all going to die. Here. On this ship. Get it? We failed.” The words rang in Y/n’s ears and swallowed their hope in a single mouthful. This was it. They weren’t getting home. Home was gone.
        While Y/n was dealing with this, Latisha had fled to the room she’d come from. Y/n didn’t need to look up to be aware of the tears that smeared the grease on her skin. Mylie squared her jaw and studied the floor. Her eyes boiled with frustration so harsh that Y/n worried she’d melt the tiles beneath her. Marty stood freakishly speechless, fingers curled loosely at his sides. It was a huge contrast to the taut coil of Mylie’s fists. He was used to being yelled at for being irritating. Not for trying to cheer someone up. He shook his head and left her. Elliot and Reggie followed him into the cargo bay. Y/n took a deep breath. Someone had to do it.
        “No. Don’t even try.” Her voice was higher than Y/n remembered it being seconds before. They sighed. Carefully planned out their words.
        “It’s not your fault.” They, too, left her to stew in what everyone would have to deal with eventually. Their words wouldn’t fix the engines, but they felt like that was something Mylie had needed to hear. She wasn’t technically responsible for anyone’s decisions—in fact, she wasn’t even the oldest out of the group—but she often shouldered burdens she wasn’t meant to carry. Weight like that could crack a person. If anything, Y/n just wanted her last months not to be spent blaming herself.

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        Another three weeks succeeded the incident before anything consequential occurred. Tension was high, but not because of Mylie. Everyone, again, recognized the toxicity of grudges—they were all each other had. Being petty would be a waste of time and energy they couldn’t muster at the moment.

        Elliot still kept a ship’s log. It seemed that he spent as much time writing as much as Y/n spent thinking. Which is, to say, a lot. The log was technically public forum, but no one else felt the need to read it. It was meant for outsiders, and they didn’t have room for those either. Y/n doubted it would ever be discovered once they were gone, even by the more advanced races that apparently existed. They were too isolated. But still. It kept him occupied. Y/n considered finding a way to do the same.

        They had just decided that they wanted to be looking at their polaroids when they died when it turned out that might not be necessary to plan for just yet.

        “Guys!” Mylie raced to the bunks where most of the crew sat. They straightened at her animation. There was no formal nighttime, but their internal clocks told them it was a nice time to be asleep. The universe, apparently, did not cater to that.

        “Someone found us.”

        It wasn’t the lion or it’s predator, that’s for sure. The ship wasn’t nearly as complex as either marvels. Grey, unimpressive, and relatively brick-like, it drifted towards them auspiciously (well, hopefully). Static poured in as the comm channels went live. Marty wasted no time tuning in.

        “-craft 19-32-B of Ophia. I repeat, this is spacecraft 19-32-B of Ophia. Are you in need of assistance? Over.” Marty’s fingers shook as he brushed the dust of the neglected headset he once used daily.

        “This is spacecraft Sancus 12 of Earth. Our ship has sustained moderate engine damage. Assistance would be graciously received, over.” There was a brief period of static and, for a moment, Y/n wondered if this was a cruel nightmare. Any minute now that ship would turn into a giant centipede or something.

        “Opening bay doors. Prepare for docking, over.” Oh, this would be so unfair to wake up after. The ship was filled with misty eyes and sighs of relief—they had hope. A chance to live. To get home. Something they hadn’t considered for weeks.

        The two ships exchanged choppy conversation further describing the damage and what would be needed to repair it. Everyone moved as if they had been but bones before—this chance had given them new life. For around twenty minutes they quietly celebrated.

        “You definitely need to keep writing at that once we meet our rescuers,” Y/n told Elliot when they nearly bumped into him. He had been writing too intensely to see them coming.

        “Sorry,” he said, “and that’s what I plan to do.”

        “What do you think they’re gonna be like?”

        “The aliens? I’m betting on slime.” Y/n managed to laugh through their nerves as Elliot retreated back into his journal. It was going to be okay. Everyone was going to be okay. Things were going to get better.

        Y/n was shocked at how fast their stomach dropped when a foreign shadow intruded on the control room. It was slow moving that their flinch was unnatural. A silhouette, then purple light. It moved across their faces, mimicking tears of light. No. Not again. Not when freedom was right there.

        “This is Galra cruiser Vox 5C. Identify yourself.” Oh, Y/n hadn’t missed being ordered around. Not at all. This time it was Marty’s voice that shook instead of his hand.

        “This is spacecraft Sancus 12 of Earth. We have...we have a crew of 6.”

        “Prepare for docking.” It was funny how the burning sentence had been a balm only minutes before. Actually, it was unfair.

        “Our ship’s steering system is inoperable. Do you have a way of bringing us in?” No response. The entire crew held their breath as if breathing would provoke whoever was staring down at them. Staring down haughty noses, most likely. Silence swathed the room. Silence, and then blindness.

        The beam produced a noise at a frequency Y/n could only barely hear. Somehow, how it splintered their skull sharper than any migraine they’d ever had. A searing flare of purple brilliancy was the boundary between the crew and knowledge. They saw nothing. They could only feel the tug of movement and determine the situation from that.

        It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the ship’s port considering how far they had been. Oh, well. Alien technology.

        ‘Prepare for docking,’ the aliens had told them. As if they knew the protocols. God, Y/n realized, humans were pathetic. They didn’t even know that this tech existed . Ignorance sure as hell wasn’t feeling like bliss right now.

        Apparently when they had told them to “prepare,” they had meant mentally. Nothing had to be altered in the ships controls for them to safely dock with the cruiser—the tractor beam did everything for them. Of course, it wasn’t like they could function much anyway. With the engine charred as it was, productive movement could cost them an explosion. Y/n didn’t think whoever had summoned them would be happy about that.

        Upon discussion, the crew decided that space suits would not be needed when leaving the ship. This was mostly deduced from the fact that gravity became heavy and obvious soon after their arrival, and gravity typically meant ‘you can function in here without major equipment.’ It wasn’t exactly the gravity they were used to, but similar.

        No one had any idea what to expect, though. All they knew about the aliens they would soon meet was that they were called “Galra,” and they were very technologically advanced. Probably not slime monsters. Most likely a militaristic society. Lucky them.

        It was almost a relief when the crew stepped out of their ship (for the first time in nearly a year) to find what looked like a sci-fi flick. Yes, the tall mauve-scaled official in front of them was intimidating, but not nearly as intimidating as he could have been. He wasn’t an alien monster. In fact, change the scale tone a bit and he could probably pass as human. The walls were just as unimpressively safe. They were simply imposing and metallic, purple as the rest of the ship. It wasn’t the greatest, but their standards had been low. Like, 9th circle of hell low.

        “You’re the crew of Sancus 12?”

        “Yes.” Mylie (bless her) was refusing to let the figure daunt her. Her steady reply made their group look a lot less apprehensive than everyone felt. “Your assistance is greatly appreciated.” With the look that the official gave them, Y/n decided that sarcasm did, in fact, exist as a universal language. They also decided that Mylie was absolutely insane. The venom hovering between the two dropped when a squadron of armored Galra (at least, that’s what Y/n assumed) marched into the hangar.

        “Commander Kratex.” After halting, a Galra in the front line inclined his head in a low nod.

        “Take them to the holding cells,” Kratex replied. Y/n had never seen Mylie look so pale in their life. In fact, her skin matched the pale purple scales of Kratex more than they did her usual shade. Y/n wished they could offer the same solace as they did a few weeks back. ‘It’s not your fault’ looped endlessly in their head, but of course she couldn’t hear them. The Galra guards surrounded them nonetheless. Though they didn’t manhandle the group during their controlled march, the gun-like weapons the guards held on display kept everyone in line. Just like a sci-fi flick.

        The journey to the holding cells took about as long as it would have taken to walk from one end of the Academy to the other. Considering the size of the school, that was a long time. The Galra didn’t seem tired. By the time they had slowed their march, the crew decided that the yoga exercises they’d been forced to perform during their time in space did nothing to prepare them for immediate prolonged activity.

        The rooms sure didn’t look like holding cells. They were more like closets empty of clothes, indented into the wall and separated by a thin barrier of metal. They had no bars—instead, the front walls were made of tinted glass-like material. Y/n doubted that the material would shatter as easily as glass would.

        A soldier pressed his palm to an electronic lock. Reading his hand (somehow) through his glove, the machine responded by opening a gap in the front wall of each cell. There was an open cell for each of them. Convenient.

        The Galra had left them in the rooms without a single order. The walls between rooms were thin, so Y/n’s crewmates managed some conversation. Morale wasn’t high, but neither were fear. Anymore. Y/n was just glad none of their crew had tried to resist during their trek. A talkative neighbor was better than a dead one.

        “I don’t get it. Is having a broken engine illegal? Did we, like, drift into their territory?” Marty rambled in the cell to their left. Y/n couldn’t tell if he was trying to make Mylie feel better by invalidating the Galra, or if he was actually in the mood for talking. In a prison cell. Trillions of miles away from home.

        “Have any of you heard of anything like them?” Despite being a few cells away, Reggie’s voice was still audible. “Even in comic books or something. Conspiracy theories?”

        “Nothing.” In the cell to Y/n’s right, Mylie paced the limited area.

        “Come on, there must be something. What do we know?” Y/n said. They wouldn’t allow her to resign. Not today. Not when they needed her.

        “They’re purple, they’re mean, and they’re smarter than us. Anything else?” Y/n got the feeling that Mylie’s temper would be sure to make her enemies in this new arena.

        These creatures—no, to refer to them as such would be an insult. Humans were the creatures. Humans were primitive. These beings were so far above them, and so hidden from their awareness. Y/n wondered if the Galra had been just as ignorant regarding human existence as they had been to Galra existence. For the sake of Earth, they could only hope so.

        “Most of those are just assumptions…” This time, Y/n could barely hear who had spoken. From the words, however, they decided it was probably Latisha. Her personality wouldn’t make her enemies, but it would get her killed.

        Like fire always does, the crew’s anger died down after hours of the same rants. The same scenery. Purple walls, purple floors, purple ceiling. All different shades, but more or less the same. Y/n was beginning to believe the Galra were conceited before they remembered the ‘neutral’ tones often used in human architecture as a default. White, beige, brown, black. Perhaps conceitedness was universal.

        It wasn’t a surprise when Mylie was the first to be removed. Actually, Y/n was shocked that the Galra had let her live this long. Despite Latisha’s insisting that they might not be all bad, these were obviously a touchy people. The snarl of the scaled official when he faced disrespect burned itself into their brain. The official...what was his name? They’d already forgotten. It didn’t matter, though, as he was not the one to take Mylie away. Just another squad of faceless guards. Were they even alive? Y/n couldn’t tell if they were breathing through their armor. Behind them trailed other prisoners, perhaps people from the ship that had hailed them originally. What had they done to wrong the Galra?

        Whoever they were and whatever they’d done, they looked scared. Wearing the same monochrome purple uniforms as were offered to the crew, (most sat untouched) their eyes darted around the room. Anywhere, it seemed, but at the cells. Maybe the Galra punished people for looking at others. Y/n noticed a particular prisoner due to their lack of socks. Maybe a soldier had burned or stolen them. And that entity looked so small, was it a child? It was extraordinary how quickly Y/n grew to hate the Galra.

        But they and their crew no longer gaped at the aliens. All eyes were on Mylie when the guard opened her cell, but not the others. When she was handled roughly, torn away from the walls and into chains. Loose chains, but Mylie hadn’t ever been in chains to begin with. The group held their breath as she was tugged away and didn’t scream. She only glanced back at them with glass for eyes. A silent apology. She left her temper in her cell as the march of prisoners moved on. To a factory? To Hell? Y/n promised themself they would never forget her name. Mylie Davis. Mylie Davis. Mylie Davis.

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        Oh, wow, thought Y/n, this isn’t great. As understatements go, this one wasn’t particularly untrue. It wasn’t great. It was, by definition, abysmal, ‘it’ reffering to the current labor responsibilities that had been thrust upon them without much ceremony or care.

        So they’d been taken out of prison. Big deal. Moving environments wasn’t huge. Sure, they were separated from their crewmates as guards siphoned them away one by one. It’s not like Y/n was upset by that or anything. The only other humans in this place? Wow, definitely not something that they had been relying on for comfort.

        It seems that the Galra had the good grace in them to find the least Earth-like planet for Y/n to work on. You know, to get rid of that pesky optimism that things might just be okay. The planet in question was round, it had a blue sky, and it had clouds. In other words, it was fundamentally a planet, but anything that might have reminded Y/n of home was swallowed by a spread of cracked dirt that looked more like a dry lakebed than anything else. The ground was solid (a blessing), dry (less of a blessing), and pocked with canyons and ditches in which they spent their working hours. The soil also had the nasty habit of sending a cloud of rusty powder about the workers, stinging any part of the body that wasn’t covered in their galra-issued slave rags. Y/n was beginning to be thankful that they were, at least, not an aquatic creature. Human skin could function in heat and dust storms. It was survivable.

        Maybe it would have been more survivable if they’d just been trying to live. The added load of forced labor really rained on Y/n’s tentatively hopeful attitude (wow, water-related phrases were really not helping their state of mind).

        The only other consolation was that they weren’t continuously working in the direct sunlight. That was probably the single upside to mining, really. While their fingers were slippery with sweat and rough with splinters and calluses from harsh tools, their skin wasn’t left as parched and red as the ground. Y/n absently wondered whether it was even possible to get sunburn on their hands. Maybe they’d have found out if they could have spent just one more summer on the planet that actually mattered to them.

        Like many elements of the current predicament, the angry ‘what ifs’ were certainly not helpful. Their brain outlived their spirit, chattering along like an insolent yet endearingly persistent child. After a few days of heat and work without solace, Y/n decided that even the ‘child’ had thrown up its arms in defeat and ground its face into the dust. It was easier that way. Not thinking.

        They wanted to make this poetic. That’s always how it seemed in those historical fictions surrounding disaster and slavery and the other great things society had to offer. But they didn’t find themself in the rhythm in which their pickaxe broke red stone, they didn’t fall precariously in love with anyone working next to them. Their sweat didn’t shine like a halo about their face. Their bruises and sore muscles weren’t a romantic metaphor. It just sucked.

        It was one of those situations in which you really wanted to say ‘This can’t possibly get any worse,’ but you know that doing so will jinx you for a long time, probably in a nasty way. Y/n didn’t say it, but things got worse anyway. It was as if every time Y/n decided that something sucked in a superb fashion, the universe would protest ‘Hey, I’m not even done yet!’ and things would begin sucking in a supreme fashion.

        Most of the slaves turned their eyes to the sky when they saw Galra fighters zipping across them (this being the sucky situation in question). Y/n followed their action. They’d seen soldiers around disciplining stubborn newcomers, but actual combat? The Galra had bled their slaves of any strength they could use to revolt. No one Y/n knew of could provoke such a reaction.

        The projectiles the ships fired were loud, bright, and borderline ridiculous. Definitely something Y/n expected from a--it was that goddamn lion again!

        The blue ship crashed into the dust in a very graceful manner, sending a torrent of dust into Y/n’s face and effectively ruining their day. After the coughing subsided, they watched as it shot fighters out of the sky from a defensive stance in front of a cave. Said cave was much like the one Y/n was mining in. However, even from this distance, it was clear that this cave wasn’t just a shallow dent in the rock. Whatever it was, Y/n doubted it was another section of the mine. The blue robot twirled into the air again, taking down more ships than Y/n had ever seen at the base at one time. The rocks around them began shifting uneasily as stray lasers flew as they pleased. Y/n muttered their daily curse at the universe and followed the growing current of slaves seeking escape.

        The lion took a jarring hit and fell hard. This time, the dust surge knocked over several people. Not ideal at all. Those who could kept on running anyway. Y/n was beginning to discover why so many people told horror stories of the mobs typically found nearby huge sales or concerts. The heat, the shoving, the air sucked out of their lungs--none good, but they had to get away. Statistically, the stray shots were bound to hit them eventually if they didn’t.

        Even knowing this, Y/n’s heels ground to a halt when the second lion emerged. Yellow and much sturdier, this machine took projectile hits like it was absorbing the shock from a lazily thrown baseball. Which was a good thing, because the blue lion wasn’t looking very enthusiastic cowering behind it.

        It was a convenient entrance. Y/n had almost started to root for them, which made the onslaught of a fresh squadron of fighters slightly upsetting. They resumed running. Stopping became more and more tempting as the lions danced on the backdrop of the planet’s weakly blue sky and sparse clouds. Accompanied still by fighters and the aggressive attention of Galra artillery, they were looking for an escape. Y/n was beginning to lose hope for them when the yellow one began tumbling out of control and the gunfire thickened.

        Their growing apathy gave way to angry recognition when space rippled above the machines. The same portal that had gotten Y/n to this pathetic point whisked the lions away to safety. They glared at the resettling sky as the crowd’s nervous pulsing ebbed away. A question introduced itself to each and every one of them--was there anyone left to keep them in line?