When Enemies Join Forces
Lotor watched the procession march in warily, distrust playing openly over his dark eyes and a frown tainting his thin blue lips. He stood stiffly next to his father, his shoulders squared and one hand resting on the hilt of his sword. He never let his eyes off the unwanted guests as they approached them, and made it clear by his expression that they were not to be trusted. The expressions on the vastly different visages of the alien guests mirrored his own.
Zarkon stood regally to Lotor's left, his staff in one hand and the other held at his side. He too glued his eyes to the newcomers as they arrived, except his expression was more relaxed and accepting than his son's. In fact, at closer glance, he actually seemed quite smug. The cloaked witch to his left was also sporting a sly half-grin on her deformed face. Hagar regarded the proceedings with a chuckle on the tip of her tongue.
The men reached the King and Prince and stopped. Usually they would be expected to bow in the presence of royalty, but these guests did nothing of the sort. The one in the lead, the oldest and obviously the one in charge, inclined his head slightly toward Zarkon. The Doom King returned the gesture. Lotor himself was ignored, but he didn't care. He had more important things to worry about than whether or not these vile beings paid him the obedience he deserved. He was more concerned about making sure their intentions on Planet Doom were as they appeared.
"General Kzun," Zarkon spoke up in his loud, booming voice, "Welcome to my home."
"My thanks, of course," the V'Ki leader replied, not sounding the least bit sincere.
"I'm glad you've finally agreed to an alliance between our two people," Zarkon continued, ignoring the other man's rudeness. V'Ki were not known for their congeniality.
"Temporary alliance," Kzun corrected.
"Of course," Zarkon agreed, narrowing his reptilian eyes, "Temporary. I would have it no other way."
"Just keep in mind that as soon as the Galaxy Alliance has been ripped apart and Galaxy Garrison's tenuous hold on intergalactic peace is vanquished, we are enemies once again," the V'Ki general told him with firm intentions.
"Make no mistake, General," Zarkon replied shortly, "Me and my people hold no love for the V'Ki, as I'm sure you feel about us. When our common enemies are finally defeated before us, we will go back to being competitors."
Tzun nodded in satisfaction.
Neither side made any more introductions, nor did they busy themselves with idle pleasantries. It was not necessary. The arrangement to be made was pure business. They would not be making friends, therefore they did not have to bother themselves with conversation. The business at hand was what was important. Lotor was at least thankful his father didn’t inquire to Tzun about his trip down to the planet’s surface.
Zarkon led the way to the council room where the hopefully brief meeting between Drule and V’Ki would take place. The two sides had a strategy to build that would require their combined efforts and cooperation. The V’Ki general was flanked by a group of six soldiers, all armed. Zarkon and Lotor also had guards stationed nearby. Neither side trusted the other, so the V’Ki had refused to land on Doom without their weapons. Against Lotor’s wishes, Zarkon had granted them their request and allowed them to bring their own lethal blasters.
They filed into the darkly decorated room and took their seats opposite one another, Tzun and Zarkon facing each other at opposite ends of the table. Lotor sat next to his father, and Hagar stood just behind her King. Lotor had considered absenting himself from the meeting as an act of disapproval, but had decided it would be safer for him to attend so he would know exactly what was going on. He didn’t want to be left in the dark about any aspect of their impermanent association with the V’Ki race.
Zarkon cleared his throat meaningfully before he began to speak.
"As you well know, General Tzun," he began, "The Galaxy Alliance has been an ever-present nuisance to both our peoples. If it weren’t for them, we would be in charge of more than half the known galaxies and have millions of slaves at our command. As it is, they have managed to deter us both from our objectives and have helped other planets, planets we had formerly won, defend themselves from our power. It is now past the time that the Alliance and their Garrison be put to eternal rest. With our combined forces we have the best chance in defeating them, once and for all."
Tzun regarded the Doom King coolly with his small black eyes.
"I agree the Alliance must be terminated," he said, "And I am willing to settle for a coalition, on the condition that we are to receive fully half of the spoils collected after the war."
"Half!" Lotor erupted in outrage. A sharp glare from his father silenced him, and Lotor sat back in his chair. He did, however, cast an angry glare at the V’Ki general, who chose to ignore him.
"Half," Zarkon repeated, "Agreed."
Lotor glanced at his father in surprise. Even though they needed the V’Ki in order to overpower the Alliance, the Drules were most definitely the superior race. Not only that, but they would be providing most of the heavy firepower, not to mention Hagar’s Robeasts. Lotor felt it was only fair that his people receive the majority of the pillages of the war with the Alliance. His father’s quick concession to a fifty-fifty split was not only unneeded, but also uncharacteristic.
"Forgive me for sounding impatient," Zarkon spoke up moments later, "But if that is all, then I suggest we get on to business and begin a plan of attack. We have only a matter of weeks before the time will be ripe to make our attack."
Tzun nodded in concordance, and the council of war began.
* * *
Keith piloted his Black Lion through the Arusian air space at a leisurely pace. Lance in his Red Lion flew right alongside him, weaving ever so slightly from left to right with impatience. Keith could tell from watching his teammate on one of the four small monitors in his cockpit that Lance was not enjoying this particular duty. Keith knew his friend was more interested in action than such formalities, but his presence had been required at this particular function.
It was that time of year again. Once a year all the high-ranking officials of the Galaxy Alliance would gather together for a week-long assembly in order to go over matters of diplomacy and intergalactic affairs, as well as to rekindle old acquaintances and welcome new members. Last year the assembly had been held on the planet Gua’Dhon. The Guanese people were a very highly respected race, physically and intellectually superior to Terrans and most other humanoid beings. They were also one of the first members of the Alliance and the first to offer peace to all species. Except some races, like the Drules and the V’Ki, had decided to reject their offer.
This year Arus was to host the event for the first time. Keith remembered attending only one previous Alliance assembly more than three years ago. Since the assembly had been hosted by Terra that year, and Keith was Galaxy Garrison’s most honored officer, he had been requested to participate. It hadn’t been so bad. Keith was always good at formal situations and had felt no anxiety about being involved in such an honored event. Lance, on the other hand, would never have gotten through the first day.
The particular flyboy did a lazy somersault next to him and pretended to stifle a yawn behind his helmet. Keith ignored his friend and kept an eye out for the convoy from Terra that was scheduled to arrive very shortly.
"Aren’t they supposed to be here already?" Lance asked in a whiny voice. He had been bugging Keith impatiently for the past half-hour.
"Soon, Lance," he said, "They’re only about ten minutes away."
"Ten minutes," Lance mumbled.
Keith shook his head at his friend.
"I hate to think about what you’re going to be like during the next eight days," he said.
Lance immediately made a face. Since they were the highest-ranking members of the Castle of Lions apart from Allura and Coran, and held honorary positions as members of the Arusian council, each member of the Voltron Force would be required to attend the Alliance Assembly meetings to be held in the Council Chamber of the Castle of Lions. But since they would not be participating directly in the meeting, Lance, Hunk and Pidge would basically be sitting there twiddling their thumbs until called upon. Both Keith and Coran would be acting as advisors to Allura.
"I just don’t see why we have to be there every day," Lance complained.
"Get used to it, Lance," Keith told him, "The higher your rank in Galaxy Garrison, the more formal duties you have to partake in."
"Guess that means I’ll be trying my damnedest not to get promoted then, huh," Lance replied shortly.
"The way you act you probably have nothing to worry about."
"Now what’s that supposed to mean?" Lance asked, giving Keith a look of mock indignance.
"You mean you don’t recall that stint on Galadia?" Keith asked.
Lance winced visibly, and Keith had to grin at the memory. Four years ago Keith, Lance and Hannah had been sent to the planet Galadia as representatives of the Garrison during a three-day long commemoration celebrating the time Terra aided Galadia in defending their planet against a V’Ki invasion. The three officers had participated in the battle and had been implicated in Galadia’s success. So the Garrison had felt it the right thing to do to send the three heroes, and the Galadians had accepted them with open arms.
Unfortunately, Lance was not one for tedious formal occasions. Besides the fact that he shortly grew a reputation for flirting with the Galadian women, Lance decided to take advantage of one particular woman’s admiration of his heroism the night before the final assembly. But Lance had haplessly consumed a large amount of Galadian wine in the process, and its effects showed the next day. Lance had actually fallen asleep during the meeting and had managed to let loose a few snores before Keith discreetly nudged him awake. Fortunately the Galadians had a sense of humor.
"How was I supposed to know that wine would be so strong?" Lance asked appealingly.
"You don’t drink strange intoxicant beverages from other planets before first finding out their affects on the human system," Keith pointed out for the dozenth time, "Especially the night before an important meeting."
"Yeah, yeah," Lance said, shrugging off the remark, "Keith, you gotta learn to live for once, you know that? You never try anything new without inspecting it ten times over first."
"That’s because I like to retain my dignity," Keith replied.
"Aren’t we forgetting something?" he asked with a chuckle, "Don’t forgot who got caught necking with the Dean’s daughter in a Space Academy sim-room by the man himself."
Keith mentally groaned, knowing he was caught. Back when he was only sixteen, he had been dating the daughter of the Dean of the Space Academy. She had been his one and only girlfriend. Though he had preferred the restrained approach to the relationship, she had been much more aggressive. While the two of them had been working on a space flight simulator together at the Academy, Keith’s enthusiastic girlfriend had gotten an urge and convinced him to let loose for a while. Unfortunately her father had decided to seek them out at that exact moment, and had caught them making out in the simulator. Luckily for Keith, the Dean had been forgiving, but had also issued a warning that Keith firmly heeded henceforth.
"That was just once," Keith said with exasperation, "And it wasn’t entirely my fault."
"Oh sure," Lance said with a grin, "Blame it all on Hannah’s eagerness."
Keith rolled his eyes.
"That’s not what I meant," he insisted.
"Sure it wasn’t."
Keith didn’t respond. He’d already spent his entire senior year at the Academy at the receiving end of Lance’s teasing remarks over the incident. He wasn’t about to go into it all over again.
"Nothing to say, O Dignified One?" Lance teased.
"Just keep a lookout for the fleet," Keith told him shortly.
Lance grinned knowingly at him.
The small fleet of ships arrived only a few moments later. A squadron of small one-man fighters was accompanying the main military transport ship carrying the Terran Alliance members. The squadron leader flew ahead of the main ship and was the first to enter the Lions’ line of sight as it entered the atmosphere. As soon as they arrived, the commander of the fleet opened communications with the two Lion ships.
"Greetings," the deep man’s voice spoke over communications, "This is Captain Banter on the Terran military transport Logos requesting permission to land on planet Arus."
"Roger, Logos," Keith responded immediately, "This is Voltron Captain Keith. We’ll be your escort down to the surface."
"Roger that, Captain," the Logos captain replied.
The two Lions then moved to join the fleet, flanking the lead fighter ship, a Terran V-Wing. Moments later a communication came in to the Lions from the lead ship.
"Keith?" a beaming feminine voice spoke up, "Is that you?"
Keith blinked in disbelief.
"Hannah?" he asked, the surprise clear in his voice.
There was a delighted laugh on the other end.
"You sound startled," she commented.
"I am," he admitted, recovering, "I didn’t know you were coming."
"I wanted to surprise you," she said.
"I think he’s surprised," Lance spoke up, greatly amused.
"Lance?" Hannah asked, "I figured you’d be close-by. You and Keith were always good at getting into trouble together."
"He’d get into trouble," Keith corrected, "I was the one who bailed him out."
"Details, details," Lance said, rolling his eyes, "I seem to remember a few good old days when you got into just as much trouble."
"Yeah, but I was a kid," Keith reminded him, "You’re an adult."
"I think that’s still in question," Hannah said, laughing.
"You two always did gang up against me," Lance complained.
"You’ll have to get used to it all over again," Hannah warned, "I’ll be here all week."
"We’re glad to have you here," Keith told her before Lance could respond.
"Thank-you, Keith," she replied warmly. Keith immediately swallowed, flashbacks invading his thoughts. He quickly pushed them aside.
* * *
Allura walked at a quick but measured pace to the main hangar in order to greet her guests. Since the Terran representatives were the first of the Alliance members to arrive, this would be Allura’s first official greeting. Although she was well versed in Alliance protocol and etiquette and had hosted a handful of other official gatherings, the gravity of her particular role of hostess to the most important assembly her planet has ever participated in weighed on The Princess' shoulders heavily.
Arus had never before hosted an Alliance assembly. Besides the fact that it had only been a member for a short time, the planet Arus had always been bombarded with enemy attacks and was therefore unprepared for such an occasion. Now that Voltron was fully and successfully established and the attacks by Lotor under control, the people of Arus were finally being given the chance and the honor of hosting the important event.
After only celebrating the Princess’ birthday a few weeks earlier, the Castle of Lions and the citizens of Arus were once again in a buzz about the imminent event. This time Coran instead of Nanny did most of the planning and handled most of the preparations, always checking with Allura first. Allura had been slightly overwhelmed at first, but with Coran and Keith’s help and advice she felt all the more prepared for her capacity as host. And knowing that the two men would be by her side the entire time comforted Allura greatly.
Flanked by two of her Royal Guard, Allura reached the hangar and went to stand next to Coran, who had already been waiting. He gave her a brief nod before turning his attention to the landing spacecrafts in front of them. The two Lion chaperones had departed to make their own landings at their resting-places. Allura watched as the military transport's shuttle and the six V-Wings settled down in her hangar.
Moments later the suited-up pilots of the fighters popped out of their cockpits and immediately formed a line starting at the end of the shuttle’s loading ramp. As soon as the first Alliance official exited the transport, the six pilots stood stiff and raised their hands to their foreheads in salute. Allura watched a man of late age with short, wispy white hair and a medium build descend the ramp. He was dressed formally in a red and gray uniform and a long red cape. He looked as regal as any king. He was followed closely by others in similar but less important-looking uniforms. Most likely his aides. Allura noticed that the lead pilot, who happened to be female, also joined the superior-looking man and stood by his left side.
The man, most likely the Terran Admiral Kelven, strode directly to Allura, stopped a few feet away, and bowed in front of her. The Arusian Princess bowed her head in respectful acknowledgement.
"Your Highness," the admiral spoke formally, "I am Admiral James Kelven, representative of the planet Terra. I bring the appreciation and salutation from my people to yours. As official chairman of the Galaxy Alliance, I also bring you and your people my humblest appreciation for accepting the province of host for this year’s Alliance Assembly."
As the Princess mentally prepared her reply, she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Keith and Lance had arrived, both in their GG uniforms. As he went to stand by her left side, Allura resisted the urge to steal a glance at her handsome Captain. Instead she smiled demurely at the admiral and spoke to him just as formally.
"As official host of this year’s Alliance Assembly it is I and my people who are obliged for the honor," Allura responded, "As ruler of Arus I welcome you and your people to my planet. It is our wish that your visit here remain to your utmost comfort."
The admiral gave her a wide grin, took her gloved hand in his, and bowed his head.
"Thank-you, Your Highness," he replied.
Allura gestured slightly with her hand.
"My Royal Advisor, Coran," she said, introducing him.
Coran and the admiral nodded to each other respectfully.
Allura then turned to her left.
"And the Captain of the Voltron Force," she continued, "and his second in command."
Instantly Keith and Lance raised their hands in salute to their admiral. The admiral returned the salute.
"At ease Commander," he said, nodding to Keith, then to Lance, "Lieutenant."
The admiral then turned to indicate the man on his right.
"May I introduce my Chief of Relations, Elton Walker," he said, making his own introductions.
Chief Walker bowed to Allura, who nodded her head once in acknowledgement. The admiral then turned to the beautiful pilot at his other side.
"And this is Commander Hannah Brant of the First Terran Defense Squadron," he continued, "Commander Brant and her men are providing my entourage with security."
Allura nodded in return as Hannah bowed to her. She couldn’t help noticing how the young pilot kept glancing in Keith’s direction, and wondered if the two of them knew each other.
"Coran will show you and your men to your quarters," Allura told the admiral, "A preparatory meeting has been arranged for this evening in the Council Chamber. An escort will be provided for you then, and for the duration of your stay here."
"Many thanks, Highness," the admiral told her, bowing once again.
"This way, Admiral," Coran spoke up, leading the admiral and his men away.
Allura breathed a sighed of relief when Coran left the hangar with the Admiral. Her first and most important reception was now over with, and she was grateful. It took her a few moments to realize that a single member of the admiral’s party had remained behind and was now moving quickly toward the two pilots standing to her left. Allura released a surprised gasp when Hannah threw herself at Keith and wrapped her arms around his neck. She was equally surprised when Keith smiled in response and hugged her back.
"It’s been way too long, Keith," Hannah told him, letting her hands linger on his broad shoulders.
Keith grinned down at her, his own hands still holding her arms.
"Three years?" he guessed.
"At least!" she replied, "We have a lot of catching up to do."
"Hey!" Lance protested, "What about me?"
Hannah laughed and went to give Lance a brief hug in greeting. Allura noticed with mixed feelings that her reaction to Lance was much less enthusiastic than the one she’d given Keith. Afterwards, Hannah wasted no time returning her attentions to the Voltron captain.
"You have to give me a tour of the Castle, Keith," she told him, taking his arm and pulling him away from the others.
Keith gave Lance a helpless shrug as he let Hannah lead him away. Lance just grinned and made shooing motions at them. Allura watched the two of them leave, miffed that Keith had barely even acknowledged her. She cast Lance a puzzled frown once they were gone. Lance managed to look a bit impish.
"They used to be really close," he told her.
"Close?" she asked. She wanted more.
"Actually," he explained, "they used to be a couple, back on Terra."
"You remember me telling you about that, right?" he asked her, "You know, boyfriend and girlfriend?"
Allura looked away and nodded slowly. Lance had long ago filled her in on the details of the Terran dating ritual. Allura involuntarily found herself shaping images in her head of Keith and Hannah together as a couple, and immediately wished she hadn’t. She had to admit they looked very good together.
"Don’t worry about it, Princess," Lance told her encouragingly, "They broke up a long time ago. They’re just friends now."
"I see," she replied, keeping her tone as emotionless as possible.
Hiding her internal emotions from Lance and the others nearby, Allura felt her thoughts scatter in disarray. One minute she had been concentrating on her role as host to the Alliance, and the next she could think of nothing but Keith and Hannah. Though she had felt jealousy before in her life, it had never before been in this capacity. She didn’t like it.
* * *
Keith and Hannah walked slowly arm-in-arm through the gardens behind the Castle, talking quietly and intimately about old times back at the Academy on Terra. Since Keith was not required to perform any more official duties until the preliminary meeting that evening, he had promised Hannah the entire afternoon after making sure Lance was on call to monitor all the incoming Alliance representatives, all of whom would be arriving at various intervals that day.
Skirting the more involved details of their once intimate relationship, Keith and Hannah laughed and spoke with enthusiasm as they retold stories, some of which only they knew. Most of the stories, though, included Lance and Sven since the foursome had been tight friends in their teenage years.
"Remember when you, me, Lance and Sven went to that lounge downtown that Lance insisted was a teen club?" she asked.
Keith instantly chuckled and shook his head at the memory, and she did the same, leaning on his arm heavily. Hannah continued, laughing as she spoke.
"And it wasn’t until after we were already inside that we found out it was actually a Aegellan jup-bar," she continued.
Keith put a hand to his forehead and shook his head. The Aegellans were a very "loose" race that strongly resembled humans except for a few physical characteristics. Their favorite past time was going to jup-bars, which were more or less nude bars. When the four teenagers from the Space Academy had unwittingly walked in on just such a jup-bar, it had taken only a short glance at the occupants to realize their mistake.
"Sven’s face turned so red," Hannah giggled, "So did yours. We weren’t in there for a split second before you grabbed my arm and started to leave."
"Yeah," he said, "But then Lance said he wanted to stay, and we realized he’d planned it all along."
"I still remember the look on your face," she told him, "You were ready to kill him. And when you grabbed him by the collar to drag him out, we turned around and saw that Sven had already fled the scene."
Hannah could no longer hold back and started laughing helplessly. Keith joined in with a bit more restraint. After a few moments Hannah settled down, though she still held onto his arm snugly. She ran her finger along the length of his sleeve, the nestled her cheek into his shoulder. Keith made no move to discourage her.
"Have you spoken to your father lately?" Keith asked her shortly.
"Just before I left," she replied.
"So how’s he doing?"
"He’s doing pretty good," she told him, "I think he gets lonely sometimes. But Galaxy Garrison keeps him busy. Since he retired from the Academy and went back to acting Vice Admiral, he’s had a lot more chances to get away from home. My brothers and I try to visit when we can, but with both the Drules and the V’Ki making trouble in the Near and Far Galaxies, it’s hard to find any vacation time."
She glanced up at him before she continued.
"He had a lot to say about you," she said.
He looked down at her.
She spoke hesitantly.
"The Garrison is afraid the V’Ki will bring more of their ships in from their home worlds to provoke an all-out war," she told him, knowing he already knew of the dangerous V’Ki, "They need all the best officers they can get."
She lifted her head and looked at him as she continued. His face remained impassive, but his eyes were slightly glazed.
"My dad wants you back leading missions for the Garrison again," she admitted to him, "I’m not really supposed to say this, but they want to promote you to Captain and give you a ship of your own to command. It’s a new model, called the Proteus. It’s supposed to be finished within the next few months."
She watched him, but Keith made no response, and his face remained blank. She could fee his body tense under her grip, though.
"Well?" she asked after a few moments of silence.
"My duty here isn’t finished yet," he told her finally.
Hannah frowned at him.
"I don’t get you, Keith," she told him, "Why do you want to stay here? You hated being stuck in one place for too long. It was your dream to explore the galaxies and protect them from the V’Ki. You’ve been here for three straight years now. That’s longer than you’ve stayed anywhere before. You know very well that by coming back to the Garrison you could do so much more."
Keith pressed his lips together tightly and kept his eyes straight ahead. Hannah moved to step in front of him to keep him from taking another step. Once they stood still, facing each other, Hannah stared him down until he looked at her. When he finally did, she spoke again.
"Why won’t you come back?" she asked in a quiet voice.
Keith hesitated, having a hard time holding eye contact with her. Finally he sighed and replied.
"Right now, Arus still needs Voltron," he told her, "And until Allura has enough training to take over leadership of the team, I have to stay."
Hannah shook her head.
"That’s not the real reason," she accused.
Keith had to look away. He made no reply. Hannah waited a few more moments before backing away.
"I’ll see you at the meeting tonight," she told him, "I have to get ready."
With that she turned and left. Keith watched her go, then turned away and hung his head.
* * *
The following morning, Allura entered the Council Chamber calm, cool and composed. Coran accompanied her inside and led her to her seat, which was at the head of the long meeting table directly across from Admiral Kelven. Each of the 428 Alliance representatives at the assembly were standing as she entered as a sign of respect. Like the others, Allura stood behind her chair, and Coran went to stand behind his, directly to her right. To her left stood Keith, once again in uniform. The rest of the Voltron Force was also present. Lance appeared particularly uncomfortable. And on the far end of the table, Hannah stood on Kelven’s left.
Once they were all positioned, Allura stepped around and took her seat, folding her hands in front of her on the black marble table. As soon as she was seated, the Admiral did the same. Then the others followed suite. Each of the people seated at the table had a small built-in monitor in front of them that flickered on with that morning’s agenda for the assembly. Allura had already memorized the entire agenda for the day and knew what was to come.
As Admiral Kelven officially started the Alliance Assembly with a prepared oration, Allura found she felt calmer than she thought she would. In fact she felt very comfortable, even though she would be playing a big part in the meetings. She knew that this was largely thanks to the two men on either side of her. Both Coran and Keith appeared at ease in their roles as her advisors for the assembly.
Allura found herself unconsciously sneaking glances at the GG commander to her left. Though she had seen him in his full uniform before, he somehow seemed even more handsome in the setting of the assembly. Perhaps it was due to her jealousy over him, but Allura thought he looked even more attractive now than he had before. His usually unkempt hair was combed and neat and his attire was immaculate. And every time he glanced at her she had to force herself not to smile in response.
Once the Admiral’s oration was complete, it was Allura’s turn to give her own address as hostess of the assembly. But with both Coran and Keith, not to mention the rest of the Voltron Force, right there with her, Allura didn’t feel the least bit nervous as she addressed the gathering of VIPs. In fact, as she progressed, she found she was enjoying herself. She was almost disappointed when her turn was over and she turned the meeting back over to the Admiral, who proceeded on with that morning’s agenda.
As the day progressed, Allura found herself learning a lot about the worlds apart from her own. She found she hadn’t known half of what was going on in the other galaxies. She had been so preoccupied with her own troubles with Zarkon, Lotor and the Drule empire that she wasn’t aware of the troubles other star systems were experiencing. Of the utmost importance, it seemed, was the fact that the V’Ki, an enemy Allura had only heard about in passing, was slowly encroaching on Alliance territory.
As she learned more about the V’Ki race, Allura discovered that they were just as barbaric and ruthless as the Drules her own kingdom faced. They were responsible for countless attacks on Alliance outposts and traveling vessels, including some Terran military vessels. As she heard more about the evil enemy, Allura found herself wondering if she shouldn’t find out more about them in case they ever decided to enter the Denubian Galaxy.
The assembly meeting that day went rather well, as far as Allura could tell. It adjourned well into the evening, after the four-course dinner Nanny and the kitchen chefs served. Allura had never seen such a wide variety of dishes from all different cultures and planets. She had tried a few new things just for fun, and found some were incredibly good, and others she could barely even swallow. Lance had suggested she try a dish of the Gularean race. It was a meat dish that was seasoned very spicy. Very spicy. Afterwards, Allura had gulped down her entire flask of non-alcoholic wine in a futile attempt to cool down her blazing mouth. While Lance just watched and snickered, Keith had come to her rescue and offered her the Gularean rice that countered the effects of the spice. Allura had been grateful, and the look she had given Lance told him that he would rue his moment of fun.
But now the once unbearable heat in her mouth was long gone as Allura bade goodnight to her guests. Lance retreated immediately, both to escape the grasps of the Princess and his uniform. Pidge and Hunk had also left to go to bed, and Keith departed to report in to Castle Control and check on security. It was some sort of coincidence that found Allura alone in the Council Chamber with Hannah, who had lingered behind to speak with the Arusian Princess.
Allura regarded her carefully as she approached. Keith’s old girlfriend was also in her uniform, and for the first time the fact that both Keith and Hannah were of the same rank registered in Allura’s head. Though she was less petite and fair-skinned than the Princess, Hannah was still a very attractive woman. Allura couldn’t blame Keith for being attracted to her. Allura, determined not to let her childish feelings of jealousy interfere with her demeanor, smiled pleasantly at Hannah as she approached.
"Princess Allura," Hannah addressed her, "We never had a chance to really meet before."
"That’s understandable," Allura replied, "You and Keith had a lot of catching up to do."
Hannah released a small grin, and Allura could tell she was remembering something about her and Keith that she would probably never know.
"Keith and I were really good friends," Hannah told her, "He, Lance, Sven and I used to be a team back at the Space Academy when we were younger. We had a lot of good times. I miss them, now that we’re apart. But from what I hear, you’re taking very good care of them."
Allura couldn’t help but smile. Had Keith talked to Hannah about her?
"Keith’s told me a lot about you," Hannah told her, confirming Allura’s suspicions.
"Really?" she asked, trying not to sound too surprised.
"He’s not much of a writer," Hannah admitted, "but he does manage to get a message out once or twice a year. He has nothing but praise for you. He even said he admired you. From what I hear, he has reason to."
Allura could only smile shyly to that, trying furiously not to flush from pleasure. Keith admired her? He had praised her? He had always been her teacher and commander, someone who had an answer and solution to everything. Ever since she’d met him, she’d admired him and looked up to him for guidance. He was always there for her to help her with anything she needed. She had always considered him her superior intellectually and physically. But now he admired her? She couldn’t imagine why.
Hannah regarded her thoughtfully, and Allura suddenly found herself nervous under this woman’s scrutiny.
"I can tell he’s never said anything about me," Hannah finally spoke up, "I could tell back at the hangar."
"Keith hardly ever talks about his past," Allura told her quickly.
Hannah nodded and gave her a small grin.
"He never did," she said, "I’m not surprised. Keith doesn’t like letting his emotions get the best of him. And he had a…well, a very difficult past."
Allura frowned in puzzlement.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
Hannah immediately appeared reluctant.
"I’d better not," she said, "It’s not my place."
Hannah took a step back and gave Allura a polite smile.
"I, um, I just wanted to meet you again," she said, "Back home, we know all about you and Voltron. And from what Keith said…Anyway, I’m glad we met."
Allura returned her smile.
"Me too," she said, not really sure if she meant it or not. "I didn’t know people on Terra knew about us."
"Most of us know about Voltron," Hannah told her, "and you, too. Actually, at Galaxy Garrison, you’re quite famous."
"Me?" Allura asked, puzzled.
"You’re the one who’s managed to keep Keith away from the Garrison all this time," she told her, "As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty amazing. Keith’s very popular back on Terra. Before the mission to Arus, he had already lead about half a dozen missions, mostly against the V’Ki. The Garrison has been pushing for him to return for a while now. But Keith’s determined to stay, even if it means losing his promotion to Captain."
Allura’s frowned deeply.
"They want him back?" she asked, hoping she heard wrong.
Hannah nodded, watching her closely.
"They’re offering him his own command," she told her freely.
"He has his own command here," Allura reminded her, becoming agitated.
"But it’s not the same," Hannah said, as if Allura should understand, "On Arus, even commanding Voltron, Keith’s more or less stuck. No promotions, no versatility. As Captain of his own ship, he would have more freedom to explore more regions of the universe and help out more people. It was what he wanted. At least, I thought it was."
Hannah hesitated, glancing down at her clasped hands. Allura just stood there, absorbing the information, not quite sure how she felt.
"Keith has been more than a great help to my planet," Allura told her, "Without him and the boys, I’m afraid our war would have been lost long ago. My people love him - love them all. They depend on him. So do I. Keith…Keith knows how much we need him. I’m sure that’s why he’s stayed for so long."
Hannah looked at the Princess and narrowed her eyes.
"That’s pretty much what he said," she replied in a strange voice.
Allura hesitated before she spoke again.
"Did…did he say what he was going to do?" she asked, not knowing if she wanted to know the answer.
Hannah shook her head.
"He hasn’t been formally asked yet," she said.
"But he will be?"
"Soon, I think."
Allura nodded numbly.
Hannah backed away a few more steps, intending to leave.
"I should go," she said.
Allura nodded, and Hannah turned and left without another word. Allura watched her go, her thoughts in a world of chaos. She found herself disliking Hannah now that the young pilot had brought her this depressing news. Not only that, Hannah had spoken of Keith almost possessively, as if he belonged back at GG.
And what if he did?
She had to know.
* * *
On to Part Two