Story Twenty-Two - Separation
Kolivan watched as all five kits were training with Antok in training hall B. It amazed him how close all of them were to each other, which made him even more reluctant to deliver the news. However, it had to be done. He just hoped Krolia wouldn't hurt him too horribly.
Acxa and Keith were ecstatic to be allowed to join their older siblings in training. It was obvious from the beginning what each twin favored. Acxa was proficient with a blaster, while Keith excelled with a sword in his hands. Both were ambidextrous and could fight with either weapon.
Antok was impressed with Krolia's twins. They were so proficient with their training at such a young age. He was excited to see how they would progress with the one-on-one training he gave each kit of his pack.
Not soon enough (and too soon), it was lunch time. The kits didn't really want to stop training, but Antok told them that if they didn't go to the dining hall, he'd alert Krolia to the situation. That made all five make a mad dash to the dining hall, causing Antok to grin. Krolia loved her kits dearly, but she could also be stern. The kits fortunately never did anything to be on the receiving end of Krolia's anger, but they had witnessed it aimed at other Blades that either disturbed the kits' rest or displayed some kind of dislike for the hybrids. Nothing riled Krolia up like a member of the organization displaying dislike for her kits, especially Keith. All of his siblings and his dads were quick to protect the youngest kit, even though they found he had quite a sharp tongue on him.
Taulol found it hilarious when she had spent some one-on-one time with him, and they had run across a Blade that basically sneered at him. Before Taulol could growl at him, Keith had said, "You're just jealous that I look so cool. You are so ordinary with your boring purple fur. Come on, Taulol. You said you wanted to show me something in your room."
Taulol put a gentle hand on the center of Keith's back, guiding him away from the Blade and towards her room. Once safely in her room, she grinned. "Good job, kit. You showed him that you aren't intimidated by someone bigger than you, especially if they don't like you."
Keith shrugged. "Mama's always told us that some beings don't like hybrids, so we have to be able to defend ourselves with our words as well as with any weapon we may have."
"She's right, of course, kit."
At the end of lunch, Kolivan asked for the entire pack to come to the nest for a very important announcement. The kits were excited. It wasn't everyday that Kolivan made important announcements for the entire pack. The kits eagerly entered the nest and sat down, waiting for their mother, aunt, and dads to arrive. It didn't take long for Taulol, Krolia, Antok, Thace, and Ulaz to arrive and settle around the nest among the kits. Kolivan walked in a few ticks later with his data pad in his claws, and his face was unusually grim. Keith didn't like Kolivan looking so grim, so he chirped.
Kolivan looked at Keith when he chirped and the leader's face softened a little at the sight of the youngest kit. "Before I make the announcement, I have to ask: does anyone know anything about Voltron?"
The kits looked at each other but shook their heads. Taulol was the one who spoke up. "Voltron is the most powerful robot in the universe. It is made up of five robot lions, each a different color with specialized weapons, but no one knows where the lions are."
"I actually found the Blue Lion sixteen deca-phoebes ago," Krolia admitted. "On Earth." Keith and Acxa whipped their heads around to look at their mother, who nodded. "That's how I met your late father. He helped me protect it until his death."
Without even sharing a look, the twins moved over to their mother's side, hugged her, and purred to her. She nuzzled their necks. "I'm okay, kits, but thank you."
"However, the Empire has located and are in possession of the Red Lion. Fortunately, they are unable to locate any of the other lions," Thace added.
"Which is why we need an operative to protect the Blue Lion. Also, since it is on Earth, the operative should also gather data on the planet and its people," Kolivan stated. The kits perked up at the sound of a mission. They usually didn't get to know about a mission unless they eavesdropped or one of their pack members were going on the mission. "Since the planet is full of beings that haven't even made it out of their solar system, we need to send someone who can blend in with them with relative ease." Kolivan took a deep breath. "Keith, this is going to be your mission."
There was a tick of silence before everyone started shouting or growling.
"He's just a kit!"
"He's not a Blade yet!"
"I refuse to let him!"
Keith's siblings all gathered around him as if that would prevent him from going on the mission. Krolia was the one who was growling. However, her growl was one that the pack had heard before. Her maternal instincts were screaming at her to protect her youngest kit.
Keith wriggled out from the circle of his siblings and knelt in front of his mother, letting out a couple of chirps to get her attention. Once she heard his chirps, she stopped growling and looked at him. He smiled and threw his arms around her. "It's all right, Mom. You know Kolivan thought this all the way through. He doesn't want to send me away any more than you do, but the Blue Lion must be protected and the Blades need the intel about Earth. He's right about me being able to get that data easily. I look mostly human, and after I cover my cheek stripes somehow, I can pass for a human easier than anyone else here."
"That doesn't mean I like it any better, my kit."
"He is correct, Krolia," Kolivan put in, causing Krolia to growl again.
"Dad, you're not helping." Keith sighed. "Mom, it's okay. I can do this. Don't you believe in me?"
Krolia stopped growling again and swept her kit close. "You know I do, kit. You're my baby. I don't think I'd be ready for any of your siblings to go on missions either, but I know each of you kits are capable."
"When am I leaving?" Keith asked Kolivan, still nuzzling his mother.
"The quintant after tomorrow."
The pack blanched. They had such little time to spend with their youngest brother/kit before he left.
"We can spend the next two quintants with Keith," Regris suggested.
"I'd like some one-on-one time with each of you," Keith requested to his siblings shyly.
"Then, we'll do that, little brother," Lotor agreed.
"I'll take Keith to the training hall, and we can spar," Regris offered. Keith grinned, knowing the training was going to devolve into a play fight near the end. It always did.
Regris and Keith, after de-tangling himself from his mother, left the nest room and walked to the training hall. They started warming up and then adopted their fighting stances. It didn't actually take the two kits long to start play fighting.
They circled each other, Regris's tail twitching in excitement. Keith darted forward but at the last dobosh tucked and rolled between Regris's legs. He ended up behind his brother and rolled back up onto his feet. He immediately jumped onto Regris's back and tried to yank him down. Regris grinned and flipped his little brother off of his back. Keith scrambled back to his feet.
Keith flung himself at Regris, jumping at the last tick, which effectively catapulted him over Regris's shoulders. Keith landed behind the eldest kit and aimed a kick at his knees, which would have connected if Regris's tail hadn't tripped him, forcing him to land on his back. Keith backward rolled away from the tail's reach and popped to his feet again. The play fighting continued until Keith was exhausted, and Regris had to carry him out of the training hall and into the familial nest, where Taulol and Krolia were. Taulol was nuzzling Krolia and rumbling to her. When Regris set Keith down in the nest, the two female Blades separated and gathered around the tired kit.
"Is he all right?" Krolia asked.
"I'm all right, Mom. Regris and I had fun play fighting," Keith replied, purring.
"That's good, kit. Now, even though we don't like that Kolivan is sending you on this mission, we still have something to help you locate the Blue Lion." Taulol brought out a small scanner disguised as a data pad. "This will scan the area for the distinctive energy the lions emit. The higher the reading, the closer the lion is."
"I can also program the pod to land close to the area where I found the lion," Krolia stated.
Keith smiled and nuzzled both female pack members. "Thanks, Mom, Taulol."
Regris stroked Keith's hair, effectively getting his attention. "I have to meet Thace in the communications room. He's agreed to teach me about decryption programs today."
Keith grinned at his eldest brother. Regris was completely enthralled by technology, always wanting to learn more. "Then, I won't keep you, bro."
Regris left after nuzzling Keith's head one more time. The eldest male kit exited the nest room just as the youngest female kit entered. Regris paused briefly to nuzzle his sister's headfur before continuing on to the communications room. Acxa entered the nest and settled next to her twin, their mother moving to sit behind Keith so Acxa could snuggle with her brother. Keith buried his face in his sister's headfur. "I'm going to miss you so much!"
"Me too. We've never been apart!"
Keith wrapped his arms around Acxa and purred to her. "It'll be okay. I'm sure they have deep space communication by now."
Acxa didn't reply, merely clutching her twin tighter. It wasn't too much later that dinner time had arrived. Taulol, Krolia, Acxa, and Keith joined the rest of their pack for dinner. It was a relatively quiet meal, each pack member being absorbed in their own thoughts.
After dinner, the pack returned to the familial nest, intent on spending time with the youngest kit as a whole before he got sent on his very first mission.
"Mom, could you tell us how you met our biological dad?" Keith asked once everyone was settled in the nest. Keith was nestled between his brothers with Regris's tail wrapped around one of his legs. Acxa and Ezor were using Keith's lap as a pillow. Krolia was sitting directly behind Keith, carding her claws through his hair, while Thace groomed her headfur. Ulaz was sitting next to the violet furred Blade, nuzzling against his side, relishing the warmth his pack member exuded. Antok was on Krolia's other side with his tail wrapped around the eldest kit's waist. Kolivan was sitting beside his second-in-command, who had unbraided Kolivan's white strands and was running his claws through them. The nest was a mess of purrs and rumbles.
"I suppose there's no harm in it. Just remember, kits, he was an Earthling and is no longer alive. It was sixteen deca-phoebes ago, and Kolivan had sent me on a reconnaissance mission to Earth to investigate the unusual quintessence that we detected on the planet. I landed my ship in the desert, close to the caves and far away from anyone living out there, or so I thought. However, Calvin Kogane liked the solitude of the desert, even though he worked in town. He was such an odd Earthling, though I didn't have anyone one to compare him to. Once he caught sight of me exploring the caves, he seemed to always be there, no matter what time it was. Eventually, he approached me, showing me his hand to show that he had no weapons on him. I had instinctively drawn my blade but didn't throw it or let it transform. He was a curious one, asking me all sorts of questions once I proved I wasn't going to kill him, though he did keep asking about abduction...I'm sure he was joking though." Krolia chuckled. "He assisted me in actually finding the Blue Lion, which took us a couple movements. It was easy to fall in love with him. However, we weren't the only ones to locate the Blue Lion. Empire scouts had also found it, but Cal and I were able to take them out and destroy their ships, after making sure no transmissions were sent out. Unfortunately, Cal was injured in the fight, and Earth's medicine wasn't advanced enough to ensure his survival. I was already four phoebes along in my pregnancy when he died, so I came home to the three kits, who were waiting for me." She nuzzled Keith's hair. "I'm just glad I was gifted two more wonderful kits, and now, my youngest is getting sent away."
"It's all right, Mom. I get to see where my biological dad was from and continue your work of protecting the Blue Lion," Keith reassured her as he leaned back against her.
"I understand that, kit. It doesn't mean I have to like it."
The next quintant saw Lotor sequestering his younger brother away in Kolivan's office. He was telling Keith all about Earth and Voltron, using the data pad that Kolivan had given him. Keith was cuddled up against his second eldest brother, listening to him and soaking up the information and affection alike. Once in awhile, Lotor would card his claws through Keith's thick hair, eliciting a purr from his brother. Kolivan was in his office, supervising the two kits and once in awhile interjecting a comment about the information Lotor was telling Keith, especially if it was out of date. After about three vargas, there was a knock on Kolivan's door.
The door opened, and in walked Ezor, holding container in her hand. "Hi! I got something for Keith that should make his time on Earth a bit easier."
Keith turned to his oldest sister, his head cocked to the side. "What is it?"
Ezor gave him the container, and he opened it. Lotor peered over his brother's shoulder at the contents, which was a powder that looked the same shade as Keith's skin. The two brothers looked from the strange powder to their sister, confused. Ezor sighed. "It's waterproof powder to cover his cheek stripes." Keith's gaze dropped to his lap, and Ezor reached out and gently grasped his chin, bringing his attention back to her. "Hey, now. I know you'd rather not have to cover them; none of us want you to cover them, but your mission requires you to blend in."
Lotor, realizing what was about to happen, grabbed the container and put the lid back on while Keith tackle hugged their sister. "I love you, Ezor. I appreciate this so much."
Lotor wrapped his arms around two of his younger siblings. "As heartwarming as this is, it is lunchtime."
"Your brother is right. However, everyone is having lunch here today," Kolivan said.
Keith looked up and, to his delight, saw the rest of his pack standing there, his twin holding an additional plate full of his favorites. He chirped, and his two other siblings sat down with them. The adults let the kits have this time for themselves, though Krolia wasn't too far away from her youngest.
After everyone ate, Keith told everyone else what he learned from Lotor (and Kolivan) about Earth and Voltron, letting his mom hold him and his twin cuddle against his side, his purrs heard easily in his voice. In fact, the time between meals passed by in a blur of cuddles and purrs.
Dinner and the time post dinner passed by exactly as it had the previous quintant, except it wasn't Krolia telling the kits a story, it was the Dads sharing funny or cute little anecdotes.
"And then Thace crossed-" Ulaz started.
"Accidentally!" Thace interjected.
"Of course, it was." Ulaz patted Thace's arm in a patronizing manner. "Anyway, he accidentally crossed the wires and received a shock. His fur was singed! It was very amusing!"
The kits chuckled at the thought of Thace with singed fur. Thace mock growled at his pack brother. "If you kits think that was funny, wait until I tell you about the time Kolivan got his braid stuck-mphm."
Thace was prevented from continuing due to Kolivan putting a hand over Thace's mouth. "That was told in confidence."
"Then, maybe I should tell the kits the time Kolivan and I were caught with our blades when we-" Antok cut himself off with a poorly concealed whimper. Kolivan was behind him and had pulled his tail.
Kolivan mock growled at his second-in-command. "Finish that sentence, Antok, and I will end you."
Thace grinned. "That sounds like something Ulaz and I did when we were kits." Seeing as the kits were hanging on his every word, he continued. "Ulaz and I grew up together here at headquarters. Both of our parents were Blades. My mother and Ulaz's father were sent on missions regularly. We had overheard my father discussing with Ulaz's mother about the luxite swords we would use when we became Blades. We made it a point to try to get ahold of them. We failed a few times, but ultimately, we got our claws on them and snuck out of our nests. We made it into an empty training hall but didn't know what to do then. That's when Ulaz's mother and my father found us and took us back to our respective nests."
"How old were you?" Regris asked.
"I was six deca-phoebes old, and Thace was five," Ulaz answered.
Keith smiled sleepily as he cuddled with his mom and twin. "I took mom's knife once, but she caught me before I even got out of the room."
Krolia nuzzled Keith's head. "That's because I know what you're like, my kit. Now, it is late. Time for everyone to go to sleep."
Krolia watched as the other ten members of her pack drifted off to sleep. However, sleep was elusive for the mom of the pack. She was worried about her youngest kit leaving the next morning and wasn't able to drift off until the really early vargas in the day cycle.
It was the quintant Keith was supposed to leave for his first ever mission: protect the Blue Lion and gather information about the people who live on Earth. What made him hesitate was he would have to leave his pack and his siblings. Keith had a half a mind to decline the mission, but Lotor talked him out of it on the way back from breakfast.
"It's an honor to be chosen for a mission, especially when none of us have even gone through the trials."
"But I won't be able to talk to any of you while I'm there. They don't have deep space communications!"
They reached the nest room, and Lotor swept Keith close to his chest. "It will be rough, little brother, but you will succeed. We will see each other again soon."
Keith nuzzled his older brother's chest before they entered the nest room. Keith started packing for his trip when Thace and Ulaz entered the nest room, the latter holding a large box. Keith paused in packing and made a questioning chirp.
Thace smiled as Ulaz handed Keith the box. The youngest kit sat down and opened the box. He pulled out a pair of red, white, and black boots. He looked up at two of his dads in askance.
"We thought you'd like a pair of boots to match the jacket Kolivan bought you eight deca-phoebes ago," Ulaz explained.
Keith grinned and put the boots on since he was already dressed in a pair of black pants and a plain black shirt. He stood up and hugged Thace and Ulaz. The two Blades picked up the youngest kit, so his feet were dangling in the air. Keith's purr was extremely loud and easily filled the nest room.
Kolivan was reluctant to disrupt the moment, but the time had come. "Have you finished packing, kit?"
Keith was set back on his feet. "Yes."
"Then, it is time."
Keith nodded, slipped on his jacket, and picked up his bag, shouldering it. He silently followed his pack leader to the hangar where the rest of his pack was waiting. He slowly passed each pack member, getting hugs and nuzzles from each. Antok pressed a pair of gloves into Keith's hands, causing Keith to pause. "I expect you to keep up with your training, and these should help with your grip. I will miss you, kit."
"I'll miss you too, Antok, and thanks." Keith put on the gloves and hugged the largest member of his pack.
They parted, and Keith continued on his way, stopping in front of his twin. There was a tick of no movement, and then, Acxa tackled her brother. Keith managed to just barely keep his footing. He nuzzled her head. "Hey, I'll be okay, sis. We'll see each other again. I promise."
Acxa whimpered. "All right, brother. I will miss you terribly."
"I will too."
The twins reluctantly unwrapped their arms, and Keith moved down the line to his mom, who was the last one for him to say good-bye to. He tucked himself under her chin and purred to her. She nuzzled his head, nosing his hair. "I don't want you to go, but I know you will be able to take care of yourself, but I want to give you something." Krolia pulled out her knife and held it out to her youngest kit. "Take this. You can return it when we see each other again."
"I will, Mom. I love you." Keith took the sheathed knife and attached it to his belt.
"I love you, too, Keith." Krolia tightened her grip on her son, turning her hold into a hug. Keith clutched onto his mom. "You must go before you change your mind."
Keith stepped back out of his mom's arms and headed for the ship his pack had prepared for him. He squared his shoulders and suppressed the urge to look back, knowing if he did that he would not want to leave.