Castle of Lions, Arus
"I said hit me already!"
"All right, but you asked for it."
Lance closed hit eyes and waited for it to come. As soon as he heard the slap, he slowly opened his eyes to gaze down at the card Keith had dealt in front of him. It was an 8.
Lance slammed his cards down with the 8 and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms in annoyance. The others grinned with amusement as Keith just shook his head at his friend.
"I warned you," their leader reminded him.
A small smile broke out on Keith’s face as he gathered the cards up from the table and proceeded to shuffle them. Hunk snickered. Pidge would have laughed out loud, but that fact that he was within arm’s reach of Lance stopped him. The four young men were sitting around a small table in the pilot’s lounge. It was evening, and miraculously they all had the night off. Whenever the four men all had free time, they usually spent it hanging out together.
Princess Allura, who was not worried about what Lance would do to her, laughed openly at her friend’s defeat. She was perched on the edge of a nearby couch, watching them as she often did. Lance glanced at her sourly. He had asked for it, though, so it was no use blaming everyone.
"How about a rematch?" Hunk suggested.
"Humph." Lance started shaking his head, mimicking Keith. He looked up and across the table at his childhood buddy.
"Can’t you ever learn to lose?" he asked plaintively.
"Learning to lose isn’t very productive," Keith told him.
"If that’s so, then Lance is way behind on his productivity!" Pidge spoke up, unable to resist the jab.
"Oh, ha ha," Lance told him sarcastically, "I’d like to see you try to beat him."
"Not at poker," Pidge said, "But I can whip his butt at chess anyday."
At that Keith chuckled. Lance turned back to him, leaned forward, and raised his index at him.
"One day," he promised, "One day I’ll beat you, and then you won’t be laughing."
Keith’s grin only got wider.
"Better hurry, Lance," Hunk told him, "Keith can’t wait that long."
"Isn’t there anything you can beat him at, Lance?" Allura asked, then blushed a bit. She hadn’t meant to make him seem so pathetic.
Lance looked at her with disappointment.
"That was low, Princess," he told her.
Allura shook her head quickly.
"I didn’t mean it that way, honest!" she assured him.
Lance suddenly lost his frown and started to smile smugly.
"Well, there is one thing I can beat Keith at."
Even Keith was interested as they all looked at him.
"And what’s that?" Hunk asked.
Lance’s grin got wider.
"I can outdo him in the seducing category anyday," Lance replied.
Both Pidge and Hunk guffawed. Allura chuckled a bit, glancing at Keith. She could see him look down at the table with a small grin on his face, but his expression didn’t give anything away as to his reaction.
"That’s one area where I won’t disagree with you," Keith finally replied, "You can seduce as many women as you want."
"Go ahead and say it," Lance told him, "but I know you’re jealous."
Keith looked up at him, his face expressionless. Allura and the others wondered how he would respond.
He never got a chance, as the alarm systems suddenly rang loudly throughout the fortress and red lights flashed on and off in the pilot's lounge. The five young pilots didn't hesitate. They jumped out of their seats and ran quickly to the control room. Once there, they walked up to Coran, who was there with a couple other officers seated at the control panels and looking at the large viewscreen on the far wall.
"There is a Robeast in G sector near a small village," Coran told them, "It's destroying the village and is about to start killing the people there if you don't hurry."
"We're on our way," Keith said.
Each pilot slid down separate lion shafts which led them to their control seats underground. The five pilots reached their lions and together, with Keith in the lead, they took off through the air for G sector to save the village and its people from the new Robeast. They arrived seconds later and were glad to see that the Robeast had not yet done a lot of damage or killed anyone. It was huge. Four times as big as the lions. It used its bare metal hands to smash yet another abandoned house in the small village, what was left of it anyway. Keith reached the Beast first. He lunged at the huge metal monster with sharp, powerful claws and knocked it over. Allura and the other boys soon reached him.
The Robeast detected the Lions approach and swung around to meet the attack. Keith fired his Missile Launcher, hitting the Robeast squarely on the chest. He followed immediately with a Tail Laser shot at one of the arm joints. The Robeast screeched and swung with one powerful arm at the Black Lion as it flew by. The arm nicked the Black Lion’s hind quarters, causing it to lose its balance. Keith managed to regain control of his craft easily and swung around for another attack. The other four lions had by now joined in.
"Save some fun for us, Keith," Lance told him.
The Red Lion took its Energy Weapon in its teeth and aimed straight for the Robeast. Lance dove right in and slashed at the Robeast’s neck, causing a deep gash in the armor. The Robeast swung wildly at the Red Lion, knocking it to the ground. They could hear Lance’s "Oof!" as the Red collided with the soft earth.
"You OK, Lance?" Allura asked.
"No problem," Lance replied, righting his Lion, "That nasty packs quite a punch."
"We have to get it away from the village," Keith told them.
"Leave it to me," Allura said, positioning her Lion.
The Blue Lion zipped by in front of the Robeast, causing its head to turn. The Blue then started weaving circles around its head, aggravating it enough to go after her. As soon as he did, Blue ducked out of the way and started leading it away. Taking the bait, the Robeast lifted off the ground and started chasing her.
"Nice work, Princess," Keith told her.
"Yeah, not bad," Lance agreed.
Once they were a good distance from the village, Allura turned her Lion to attack. The others did the same.
"Any reason why we don’t form Voltron now?" Hunk asked.
"None at all," Keith replied.
But just as they were about to form Voltron, the Robeast suddenly bolted from the scene faster than they thought possible. The five Force members did a double-take.
"Where’s he running off to?" Lance wondered aloud.
"Maybe we hurt him worse than we thought," Pidge suggested.
"He’s not getting away," Keith said firmly.
Keith immediately thrusted his Black Lion towards the retreating Robeast at full speed. The others followed, trailing behind.
"They're heading for the ravine," Pidge observed.
The Robeast disappeared into a nearby ravine, and the Black quickly followed.
"Looks like Keith gets to party without—"
Lance was drowned out by a big, deafening explosion inside the ravine. Allura and the others, and anyone else within twenty miles, could see clearly the gigantic red and yellow mushroom forming over the ravine, at the exact spot where Keith had entered seconds earlier.
"Keith! No!" Allura yelled helplessly.
"Allura, what happened?" Coran's voice came through to him urgently.
"The Robeast self-destructed itself!" Pidge exclaimed.
"It got Keith," Lance said quietly, "He's hurt bad."
"That's it," Hunk said angrily, "Those guys are gonna get it now."
The four Lions converged on the ravine, afraid of what they’d see. As soon as they smoke cleared, they could see what little was left of the Robeast. Farther away, they could see the severely damaged Black Lion, lying on its side, torn and mangled. Smoke billowed out of a gash on its back. Allura, Lance, Hunk and Pidge set their Lions down nearby.
"Keith?" Hunk spoke up, "You still there?"
He got no response.
"Keith, buddy, speak up!" Lance told their downed leader.
Still no response. Static was all they could see on the screens that were supposed to let them see Keith’s face.
"He’s not answering," Allura said in a quiet voice.
"Do you think he…?" Hunk started, unable to finish the question.
"No," Lance said firmly, "Not Keith."
"Coran," Allura said, calling Castle Control, "Send an emergency medical team here quickly."
* * *
Though there was extreme damage to the Black lion, it could still be saved. There was not that much hope for its pilot, though. As soon as the rescue team arrived, Lance and Hunk helped them drag the young pilot out of the cockpit, in very bad condition. Keith’s face and upper body was covered in blood that was oozing out of a deep wound on his head. His helmet had come off in the explosion. Gently, so as not to aggravate his wounds, Keith was transported to the fortress infirmary as quickly as possible. Dr. Gorma was there waiting for him, as well as many of his assistants. They wheeled Keith into the operating room immediately, and all others were shut out.
* * *
After returning their lions to their resting places, Allura, Lance, Pidge, and Hunk hurried to the waiting lounge outside of the operation room. The Black lion had been taken to the lion repair hanger, where technicians had immediately went to work on it. As soon as they arrived, the four nervous pilots started pacing anxiously across the steel floor, not bothering to sit down on one of the few soft couches placed there for them. Coran met them in the lounge not long after, and paced with them, chewing on his fingernails and closing his eyes from time to time. No one, not even Coran or the remaining four Voltron pilots, were allowed to go in and see Keith as the doctors were working on him.
The Princess Allura’s eyes were red and damp, and the others could tell she'd been crying. She was the only one who sat down on a couch. She often rubbed her eyes and bit her lower lip as the others paced, waiting for news of Keith's condition. Eventually the three other pilots, already tired from their earlier excursion, wearily stopped pacing and sat down on the other couch. Coran, though, could not think of resting with his mind on Keith.
Finally, over four hours since they first went in to operate on the young pilot, the doctors and surgeons walked wearily out of the room, wearing blood-stained clothes, and were replaced by nurses. They first went over to the washing room to clean up. Coran followed them in, with the others close-by.
"How did it go?" Coran asked.
"Yeah," Lance said, "Is he okay?"
One of the doctors, an overweight elderly man with white hair, stepped towards them after he finished washing.
"We did all we could," Dr. Gorma began, and the others all had a sinking feeling inside them. The doctor continued, "We fixed up all of the internal damage we could, and patched him up as best as can be expected. He was hurt very bad. It didn't help that he wasn't wearing the helmet, it may have saved him a lot of internal head injuries."
"So, is he..." Hunk never finished his sentence. The Princess had tears coming down her cheek from her puffy eyes, and her chin quivered as she stared at the doctor.
"He is alive," he said, then added, "For now, that is. He's unconscious, in a severe coma. I'm not even sure he'll ever come out. Like I said, we did all we could."
"And what if he does wake up," Coran said, "Will he be...okay?"
Dr. Gorma shook his head, "His chances of a complete recovery are a thousand to one. There was too much inside damage, we barely had the right equipment. If he ever does wake up, he'll never be the same. Either he'll be mentally handicapped from here on, or amnesia, blindness, the loss of any of the senses. You can never tell. But it won't be good, I'll assure you." He put his hand on Coran's shoulder, "I'm sorry, Coran."
Coran nodded absently while staring down at the floor. He only muttered softly, and very slowly, "You did what you could," then left the room.
The doctors all finished washing and left the room quietly. Keith was moved into an intensive care room and watched over constantly by nurses. His three young friends and the Princess sat on a bench outside of his door and waited for an opportunity to see him. They were all very tired, and all but Lance fell asleep waiting. The boys had all changed into wearing casual clothes while Keith had been moved. Lance wore blue pants and shirt and a dark brown leather jacket. Pidge wore his small, one piece green jumpsuit, and Hunk was in orange slacks and a yellow shirt with an orange vest. There was also his usual orange bandanna on his head. The Princess wore her pink jumpsuit.
Lance perked up from his uncomfortable slouch on the hard bench and stood up quickly when the citadel's chief doctor, Dr. Gorma, walked out of Keith's room just then. He walked over to the doctor and stopped him from walking away.
"Dr. Gorma," Lance said, as the others slowly woke from their slumbers, "Can we see him now?"
Dr. Gorma hesitated, and looked over their anxious faces. Then he nodded and said, "Sure. You can see him for a little while."
"Come on," Lance said, opening the door to Keith's room. He led the others into the small room, and crept quietly over to the still form lying flat on the bed.
Keith's face was totally black and blue, with touches of yellow, purple, and red. In fact it covered his whole body. His eyes remained closed and his breathing was strained. Tubes had been inserted all over his young, lean body, now mangled and torn. Stitches were laced up along his jawline, just underneath the chin, and he was barely recognizable. Monitors crowded the head of his bed, along with more tubes, an oxygen tank, and bags of liquids and medication. His bare chest was covered with white bandages, and another was wrapped around his swollen head. His arms were also wrapped and punctured by long tubes. The rest of his body was covered by a blanket.
"Hey, Keith, Pal," Lance whispered as he leaned in closer towards his friend. Pidge peered over to see the wounded boy over the top of the bed, and gulped as he witnessed the result of the Black's crash. Hunk just stared at his friend, tears standing in his eyes. Allura walked around to the other side of the bed to look at Keith, and started crying softly once she saw him.
The four young people stood quietly beside Keith's bed, looking, and remembering all the good times they'd had. They didn't notice Coran enter the room until he stood beside his charge and put his arm comfortingly around her shoulders. She hugged him and started crying into his long jacket.
After a few minutes, Coran said quietly to them, "Let's go, then."
He led the reluctant boys and Princess out of Keith's room and shut the door behind them.
* * *
"Boys," Coran said as he paced in front of them, "and Allura. I know it hasn't been long since our recent tragedy, but there is still a world here that we have to defend, no matter how few of you there are left. Allura, Lance, Pidge and Hunk, you will still be on call and are still obligated to defend the area against any Drule Robeasts. Allura, you will be piloting the Black Lion until its pilot returns."
"The Black?" Allura asked uneasily, "But, but that’s Keith’s Lion."
"It’s yours now," Coran told her, "for as long as Keith is unable to pilot it."
Coran turned to Lance.
"You will be commanding Voltron from here on," he told the gangly young man, "All right, Lance?"
Lance nodded numbly.
"Good," Coran got up and started for the door, "I am going to contact Sven. Hopefully he will be able to fill in soon."
* * *
Later that night, after the four young pilots had already gone to bed, a dark figure sat at his desk and turned on his long range communicator. He typed in a single short message and sent it. As soon as he saw that the massage had gotten through, he turned the communicator off and went to catch up on some well-missed sleep.
Message: Jeff, I have some bad news. Keith is in a coma. They don't know whether or not he'll pull through. I'll get in touch if there is any change. I am truly sorry.
From: Coran, Castle of Lions, Arus.
* * *
Castle of Lions Infirmary - Intensive Care
Dr.Gorma walked down the corridor of the hospital to room 321. He wore a long white coat and held a clipboard in his hand. He opened the door to the room and stepped inside, shutting it behind him. The room was not very large, and had a small window with a view to the front lawn of the Castle, two floors up. A single small viewscreen sat on a stand on the left wall across from the hospital bed. There was no large medical equipment or life support in the room, because the patient didn't need any. There was only a long bed three feet off the floor, and a small table beside the head of the bed.
Fritz went and stood over his long-time patient. The boy was young, almost twenty-two years old. His thick black hair had grown back quickly over his head. The stitches and bandages were gone, with only traces of scars left. The damage done to his head and whole body had seemingly healed, but he was still in a coma. He had not moved, nor spoke, nor opened his eyes for two months, ever since the crash.
Dr. Gorma scribbled something short on the clipboard, then walked out of the room, leaving his patient alone once more. Keith didn't mind. He didn't know. His pale face was calm, and thoughtful, as he slept soundlessly. His breathing was normal, and his chest went up and down at every breath. If it weren't for the fact that nothing could wake him up, anybody would have thought he was only napping.
He was still hooked up to some equipment, but they weren't to keep him alive. They were muscle and brainwave enhancers. The muscle enhancers kept his muscles working at regular intervals so that he would keep in shape. In fact he'd be in even better shape than he was before. The brain enhancers were to try and prevent any brain damage, or if there was damage, to try and bring back any abilities lost, though it would not recover to more than 75%.
Moments after Dr. Gorma left, another figure slinked into the room. This person was smaller and slighter, and wore a long flowing gown. She crept quietly over to Keith’s bed, almost as if afraid of waking him. As soon as she reached the bed she placed her hands on the edges, inches from his arm. At first she did nothing, just stood there and stared down at his face. Then her mouth opened to speak, but at first no words came out. The Princess took a deep breath, and blinked once before she finally began.
"Lotor’s been attacking more lately," Allura began in a soft voice, "Luckily Sven got here a little while ago, so we’ve been able to fend him off. Barely."
She stared at Keith for a moment before continuing.
"Lance is doing OK in command, but I can tell he doesn’t like it," Allura said, "He won’t admit it, but he knows he needs your help. I don’t think he was ready to take over command of Voltron. I wouldn’t be either. It just doesn’t seem right, not having you there."
Allura glanced away from Keith’s face long enough to locate his hand. She then moved her own to grasp it gently. As soon as she had his hand firmly in hers, she turned back to him.
"I think Lotor knows we’re not performing as well," Allura told her leader, "He’s planning something, I’m not sure what. But he hasn’t attacked in days. We’re all starting to get suspicious. But none of us have any clue what he could be up to."
She tightened her grip on his hand.
"We need your help, Keith," she told him, the tears starting to return to her eyes, "We need you back. I need you back. It’s not the same without you."
Allura grasped his hand with both of hers and leaned in closer.
"You can’t leave us, Keith!" she told him, "We care too much about you. Please come back to us. Please! It’s not Voltron without you."
Allura leaned down to lightly kiss Keith’s forehead. Then, keeping her face close to his, she spoke again.
"Don’t make us wait any longer, Keith," she whispered.
Then, reluctantly, Allura stood up and let her hands slip off Keith’s. With a final teary-eyed look at his face, Allura turned and left the room.
For the first time in over two months, something happened -- his face twitched. The words spoken by the Princess had reached him. Keith's face twitched and twisted as the words sunk in, and he began dreaming, thinking.
A young and handsome man picked Him up and took him to the space docks to see the gigantic ship. He was excited when entered through the huge door and he got his first glimpse of the magnificent vessel.
"There it is, son," the man told him, "Just like I told you."
"Big," He said.
"And strong," the man said, "and so powerful. I wish I could take you for a ride, but it's against the rules. Someday, though, you'll pilot a ship as great as this, even greater, and then you'll feel what it's like."
"Hello there," a distinguished middle-aged man addressed Him, "How do you like the Command Center?"
"It's neat!" He remarked excitedly.
"Hi," the blond little girl standing beside the man said to Him, smiling shyly.
He whispered to the man, "Sorta small, ain't she?"
The girl frowned and stamped her foot, then appealed to the older man, "Daddy!"
"How come you're wearing that rope in your hair?" He indicated the purple ribbons the girl wore. He went over and grabbed one and pulled. She screamed.
"Okay, that's enough, children," the man said, cuddling his small daughter.
"Still say she's small," He mumbled.
The older man said to Him, "These boys are also going to train to be pilots, like you."
"Nice to meet you," a dark-haired kid said, speaking in a Norwegian accent.
"Hi," He said back.
A real lanky kid came up to Him, "Hey, there, Pretty Boy."
"Don't call me that," He told him.
"Why not?" the kid asked, "It's what you are."
"I'm not pretty," He insisted, going after the kid, "I'm not a girl."
"I never said you were," the kid said, running away from the older boy, "I didn't mean it, okay?"
"Fine," He stopped chasing him, "Just don't call me that again."
"Sure," the kid said. But behind his back, his fingers were crossed.
"Ready for your first mission, guys?" the man asked them.
"You bet!" He exclaimed.
"No sweat," the skinny boy, now older, said.
"Ready," said the Norwegian boy.
"Great job, kids," the man said, "Now go to it!"
"Get ready to form Voltron!" He commanded to the others in their lions, "Dynotherms connected, infracells up, and megathrusters are go!"
The five lions crouched in the air, and their arms and legs disappeared into their metal bodies. Roaring emanated from their mouths as the five young pilots prepared to transform.
"Form feet and legs," He commanded, "Form arms and body."
With the Black lion being the body, the Blue lion attached to the bottom to form the left leg, and the Yellow formed the right leg. On either side, the Red formed the left arm, and Green the right.
"And I’ll form the head!"
Up at the top, the Black lion's mouth opened wide to reveal the face of the giant robot.
"All right!" He exclaimed, "Let's go!"
The newly formed robot, after finishing the transformation, then flew rapidly after the bad robot, a very big one that the lions hadn't been able to kill in their natural forms. The bad robot met them and was thrown to the ground.
"Now," He said, "Form Blazing Sword!"
The 'hands' or lion heads of the Red and Green lion came together in the from, and when they parted, a blazing sword appeared. Held in the mouth of the Red lion, the giant robot swung the sword over the beast and sliced the metal robot apart. The beast fell apart and exploded. The giant robot stood mightily over the crackling beast, sword in hand, in victory.
"Way to go, team," He said, "Now let's dump this piece of scrap metal and head back to the Castle."
Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Black flames engulfed everything. He couldn't see. The flames, the gases, the smoke, the colors spread over him quickly. Anger overtook him. He no longer thought rationally. His mind was clouded, blocked. Only revenge, only the destruction of the enemy, would rid him of the anger, the madness, the fury. The grief. The suffering. The intense, insoluble pain.
The young man's eyes suddenly popped open. He stared widely up at the ceiling, frozen. He blinked a few times, trying the get the heaviness out of his eyes. He put his head back on the soft pillow, and turned it to look out the window to the bright sunlight outside. He looked around the small room slowly, confused.
Where am I?
His body jerked up from the bed, and he put a hand on his head. He felt the perspiration on his temples and his long, damp hair. He felt terrible. Hungry. Weak. Alone.
He then blinked as something occurred to him.
Who am I?
He then jumped out of bed and stood up, but suddenly his knees buckled and he had to grab the edge of the bed for support. He weakly regained his balance and scanned, the room, then dragged some clothes out of a nearby cabinet and laid them on the bed at his feet. He then took off the hospital pajamas he was wearing. That done, he grabbed his clothes and put them on. They felt comfortable and familiar. He then flipped the collar of his jacket down and buttoned up the front over his shirt.
This is impossible. What is this place? How come I don't remember? What happened to me? Was I shot down? Did I crash or something?
Keith went to the door and peeked out. There was no one in the hallway, so he left his room and wandered out, still having no clue as to where he was.
* * *
"We’re doing our best," Lance said, "But it's not good enough."
Coran sighed, "I know, Lance. I know. Good-night, all," he said, then left without another word.
Lance shook his head and ran a hand through his thin brown hair, "This sucks! We should be able to do something!"
"Coran is right, Lance," Allura told him, "About the lions. We'll just have to try and do better."
"We can't do much better," Hunk said.
"Yes we can," Allura said optimistically, "And we will, for Coran, and for Keith, and the people here."
"She's right, guys," Pidge said.
Lance sighed, then admitted, "Yeah, you're right. Man!" he slammed his fist down on the card table.
"I know how you feel, Lance," Sven said quietly.
"If only Keith were here," Pidge said softly.
"I'm going to bed," Allura said suddenly, "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Princess," the others said. Allura, walking stiffly, left the lounge, and the others shortly followed her out. Soon only Lance remained in the room. He walked over to the left wall and started staring at a picture that was hanging there. It was a picture of the old Voltron team. There was Sven and Keith standing together, next to himself, Hunk and Pidge. They were all smiling. Keith had his hand on Lance's shoulder, and the other on Pidge's. They were together, the five original Voltron pilots. They would never all be together again, though.
"Why did you have to go and crash?" Lance asked Keith's picture. The figure in the picture didn't answer, but just kept on smiling. Lance sighed and dejectedly walked out of the lounge to his room.
* * *
Coran entered his room exhaustedly. He didn't bother to turn on any lights, and let the light of the moon flowing through the open window light his way to his desk. There he took off his jacket and sat down at the desk. Almost an hour later, the telecom on the desk buzzed. Coran considered not answering, but pushed any lazy thoughts aside and punched at the receiver.
"Coran here," he said.
"Coran," a familiar voice said to him, "Dr. Gorma here. I think there's something I ought to tell you."
Coran immediately perked up and his blood surged, "Keith's woken up?"
"Not exactly," Fritz said, and Coran slumped back down in his chair, "but he's not in his room. His bed is empty, and his bedclothes were found on the floor."
"Couldn't he have woken up and left?"
"Perhaps," Fritz said skeptically, "If he had woken up, he wouldn't be in any condition to allow himself to just walk out. I'm positive he was kidnapped."
"But by who?" Coran asked, "Lotor? Haggar?"
The doctor could give him no answer.
Coran waited for the line to break, then slammed the phone down on the desk. He immediately jumped up from the chair and headed for the door, intending to go to the control room. When he opened the door and started out, he bumped heavily into someone who had been standing on the other side.
"Why don't you watch where you're going?" Coran said, not bothering to look at the other man.
"Sorry, sir," a strangely familiar young voice said, helping him get straightened up, "I didn't know you were going to storm out of your room like that."
Coran jerked his head up to see the twenty-one-year-old youth he had so often wished he would see again. He just stared at him, quite surprised.
"I'm sorry to bother you," Keith said, "but could you tell me what’s going on?"
"My goodness, Keith," Coran said, engulfing the young man in an embrace, "I thought I'd never see you again."
"You mean you know me?"
Coran separated and held him at arms length, "What are you talking about. Don't you recognize me, Keith?
He shook his head helplessly.
"Is that my name? So you know who I am?"
Coran stared at Keith in shock, then breathed, "You lost your memory!"
Keith nodded, "I sort of guessed that."
Coran shook his head and stared at him, "Oh, my, I didn't expect this. How come you left your room without telling anyone?"
Keith shrugged, "Well, I didn't feel like waiting around for some doctors and shrinks to go over me first. I just wanted to find someone who could tell me who I am."
Coran took his arm, "Come inside, Keith, and let's talk."
* * *
"We have to restart your training and get you back into the Black Lion as soon as possible," he said, "The Robeasts are getting deadlier. Sven, Lance, Pidge, Hunk and Allura have been having a rough time without your leadership. Lotor is attacking more often, and Allura and the others are much too overworked. We'll start your reintegration into the Black Lion first thing in the morning."
Keith stood slowly and said, "Uh, okay."
It was an hour later, and Coran had been trying to catch Keith up on some parts of his life. Keith had listened aptly, but recognized nothing the older man told him.
Coran looked over at him, the walked over to him and put an arm around him.
"I'm sorry, Keith," he said, "You must be exhausted."
"Yeah, I am a bit tired," Keith admitted.
Coran led him out of the room and down the hall, "I'll take you to your room so you can rest. As soon as the others are up I'll let them know you're back. They'll be ecstatic to see you again."
They walked down three long corridors before stopping in front of an unmarked door.
"This is it," Coran said, then turned to face him.
"Thanks," Keith replied.
Coran looked at him, "Are you sure you're up for this, Keith?"
Keith nodded, "I'm okay. I'm sure I'll start remembering things eventually. Until then I'll study as hard as I can to pilot the Black Lion."
Coran smiled, "You were an excellent leader, Keith, and you will be again soon."
He then patted Keith on the shoulder and turned away.
Keith watched him go, then turned to face the door. He pushed the button to open it, and it slid open. The room was pitch black. Keith reached in and flicked on the light switch and took in his room.
There was a viewscreen on the wall across from the foot of his bed, and the dresser drawers were all shut. Books were stacked neatly in a bookcase. His bed was neatly made. His closet door was open, and the closet was void of clothing and full of old boxes and junk. And finally there was the sliding doors at the far end of the room which led out to the balcony over-looking the lake.
Keith went over to the dresser and took up a framed picture in his hands to look at. It was a picture of himself and four other young people, apparently taken a few years ago, posing together in front of the Black Lion. Keith and a tall, gangly young man about his age were clasping each others' shoulders and smiling and laughing. Keith stared at the young people in the picture for a long time, taking in their features and trying unsuccessfully to remember them. Finally he set the picture down and went to his bathroom He came out minutes later half-dressed. He looked himself in the mirror and shook his head.
"Do I know you?" he asked himself. The reflection didn't answer, but merely stared back at him.
Exhaustion finally gave way to discoveries. Keith fell forward on his bed and promptly went to sleep. But this time, he would wake up.
* * *
Message: Jeff, Keith has awoken and returned to the citadel in good health, but he has amnesia and remembers nothing. I have not told him about you yet. I seek your advice on the matter. He will begin retraining tomorrow. Send an update of your status as well.
From: Coran, Castle of Lions, Arus
* * *
Coran was pacing in the pilot's lounge the following morning when they arrived.
"Good, you're here," he said to the four sleepy pilots, "All of you, sit. I have something important to tell you."
"What is it, Coran?" Lance asked as he sat at the card table in the middle of the room and crossed his arms in front of him.
"Is it bad?" Pidge asked from his usual perch in front of his computer on the far wall.
"Please don't say it's bad," Hunk moaned from the left side of the corner-couch.
"Let him speak, first," Sven advised with a trace of a smile.
Princess Allura said nothing. She leaned against the armrest of the couch, facing her uncle.
"Both good and bad news," Coran told them.
"Good news?" Lance asked, "Great, what is it?"
Coran told them, "Keith has woken up from his coma and is already up and about."
Suddenly the five pilots jerked up to full attention.
"Keith's back?" Lance asked incredulously.
"Wow!" Hunk cried, "Is he okay?"
"When did he get here?" Pidge asked, smiling.
"Has he fully recovered?" Sven inquired.
"Where is he?" Allura asked.
Coran continued, "He arrived late last night. And physically, yes, he's okay. I suspect he's still sleeping in his room."
Lance narrowed his eyes and asked, "What do you mean, 'physically'?"
Coran sighed, "Keith has managed to come out of the coma without brain damage, but, he does have amnesia. He can't remember a thing, not even his own name. I spent over an hour last night filling him in with the basics."
"You mean he doesn't remember us?" Pidge asked, "Or Voltron?"
Coran shook his head.
Sven spoke up, "But that means he cannot pilot the Black."
Coran nodded, "Not yet, but he will. He agreed to begin retraining for the Black Lion today. Hopefully he'll be able to join you on your missions very soon. I'm hoping that the longer he's here the faster he'll regain his memory. I only hope it's not permanent."
"Can we go see him?" Allura asked.
Coran told her, "Let him sleep. He only woke up from his coma yesterday, and he was up half the night. You'll see him as soon as he gets up. Now, when he does wake up, I don't want you five to maul him. He's just been through a great deal. Try to stay calm when he arrives. But talk to him, tell him about yourselves. Tell him about things you did together, things about himself. I want him to regain his memories soon if at all possible. I'm hoping if we give him back a few memories, then he'll gradually come back to us. But not too much at a time, OK? I think Keith's feeling a bit overwhelmed right now."
Pidge told him, "You can count on us, Coran."
Coran nodded and smiled, "I knew I could. I'll be in the control room. If Keith comes along, make sure he has breakfast, then send him to me."
"We will, Coran," Hunk promised.
Coran nodded to them, then left.
The five young pilots began their wait.
* * *
He was dreaming. A man was standing in front of him. A young man, slightly older than himself and wearing the same space uniform. This man's hair was lighter, more of a sandy brown, and his eyes were brown, not grayish-brown like Keith’s. The familiar man held out his hand, and they shook solemnly.
"I don't know when we'll see each other again, Keith," the other man said, "I wish it didn't have to be this way, but it does. If I don't help them on Uria the Drules will get it too. But we'll stay in touch, and hopefully I'll return soon."
Keith answered, "You bet. And say good-bye to Sara for me, too."
The other man laughed, "I will. You take care of yourself."
"You, too," Keith said.
They grasped each other's hands for a moment, then put their arms around one another in a tight hug. When they let go, the older man started backing away towards his ship.
"Bye, Keith," he said, waving.
Keith waved back.
Jeff climbed into the space craft and the hatch slid down over him. He gave one last look down at Keith, gave him a thumbs up, then took off. Keith watched him fly away, strange emotions coursing through him.
* * *
He woke up. He was perspiring lightly. On the edge between dreams and reality, he tried searching his memories and coming up with some answers, but everything was too fuzzy and he couldn't grasp onto a solid idea. Keith opened his eyes and breathed deeply. His room was dim, but some sunlight peered in through the windows of the double doors leading to the balcony.
Keith sat up and climbed out of bed. He wore only his undershorts. The air was cool, yet he was hot. He stood up stretched, feeling the soreness in his muscles, and he groaned. He still couldn't remember.
Keith showered and dressed into the same uniform he had worn the previous day. It seemed to suit him somehow. He even felt comfortable when wearing the red and white uniform with the Voltron logo over his left breast. He combed his black hair, then, after taking a deep breath, left his room and entered the well-lit hallway beyond.
He wasn't sure exactly where to go. He had to meet Coran somehow, but he had no idea where to find the old man. So he picked the route which he thought might lead him back the way they had come last night. After a while, though, he passed through some hallways which he definitely did not remember from the previous night. Annoyed at himself, Keith decided he was lost.
Then he saw the sign that read "Pilot's Lounge".
* * *
The shoes were making a distinct clapping sound as they seemed to almost march down the corridor. Pidge looked up from his computer. Hunk looked up from his breakfast. Lance looked up from his game of Solitaire. Sven turned away from his silent gaze out the window. Allura looked up from her meditation on the couch. They all turned towards the opening to the corridor that led to and from the lounge where the sound of those shoes was coming from. They all waited tensely, expectantly.
Then he appeared. A friend they had thought long-gone, who they thought they'd never see up and about again. He stood there, gazing at them all in a sort of recognition, his features still holding some of what their old friend looked like, but they had changed somehow. He was just as serious, but curious now as well, not as intense, not as familiar.
To Pidge and Hunk, he was the same, except he had grown. And he seemed to recognize them, but not the way they wanted.
To Lance and Sven he seemed not as wise or as strong as he once was. He seemed like a child, even, except the seriousness in his eyes remained, showing signs of hope.
To Allura he seemed the same, except that piercing, intent look he always wore was gone. He was every bit as handsome as he used to be, but he was cute now too, and he never used to be cute.
Keith saw the five pilots staring at him and making their own assessments of him and looked at them all a bit uncomfortably. He recognized them from the pictures in his room, but their personalities and real identities were a mystery to him. He couldn't even put names to the faces. Yet they all obviously knew who he was.
"Coran told me about you guys," Keith said. He had to get conversation started somehow.
"So you really did lose your memory?" the tall gangly young man spoke up.
Keith nodded, "I'm sorry. I don't know your names."
"Lance," he said, standing and going over to him. They were almost the same height. Keith was a bit taller. They shook hands.
"I pilot the Red Lion," Lance continued. It was obvious he was restraining himself somehow. Keith could see that. As he looked around at their faces, he could tell the others were doing the same thing.
"I'm Pidge," the short, scrawny youth came forward, "I'm the pilot of the Green Lion."
"Hunk," he said, "I pilot the Yellow Lion."
They shook as well.
"Sven. Temporary pilot of de Blue Lion."
The young woman came forward. She seemed very lovely. Keith idly wondered what she looked like with her hair down.
"I'm Princess Allura," she told him.
Keith smiled, "Let me guess. You must be my replacement for the Black Lion."
She smiled back, a bit sadly, then stepped forward and embraced him tightly. Keith didn't know how to react to this, so he didn't.
"We've all missed you," she told him.
He nodded, not knowing what to say.
"We're glad you're back, Pal," Lance agreed.
"Thanks," Keith said.
There was a short, awkward silence. No one knew what to do or say in this situation. Finally Hunk spoke up.
"Uh, Coran said we should make sure you had breakfast," he said.
Lance stole a grin at his chubby friend.
"Trust Hunk to bring up food."
"Actually," Keith said, "Food sounds good right now."
"Let’s go get some breakfast, then," Allura said, leading him out of the lounge, "I’m sure Nanny has prepared something delicious."
The other four pilots followed them out, eager to stay close to their resurrected friend and leader.
* * *
Keith rode with Allura the first few times in the Black Lion before he tried it himself. Allura felt strange, having the tables turned. Usually it was him instructing her. But they all found that Keith needed little guidance. From piloting the Black Lion, to hand-to-hand combat, to military tact, Keith seemed to pick right up where he left off. These skills came easily, naturally to him, as if he’d never forgotten. Except he still couldn’t remember anything about himself or anyone else.
They each spent time with him, trying to boost his memories. Keith spent most of his time with Lance and Sven, since they had all been boyhood friends and had known each other the longest. They told stories to Keith about his past, before even coming to Arus five years ago. But in the six days that they had with him, Keith’s memory refused to come back to him.
And so it found them the evening of the sixth day of Keith’s reawakening back in the pilot’s lounge, once again sitting around the small table playing cards like they had the evening Keith had been injured. This time Sven had joined them, though he professed to not being good at cards. Lance, of course, knew this. Keith was also playing, and Allura was hovering over them, glancing at each of their cards and watching for what they would do next.
"Hit me," Lance said.
"You sure, Lance?" Hunk asked.
"Never more sure," the flyboy replied, "Hit me."
Hunk complied and flipped over the top card on the deck. It was a 4. Hunk, Pidge, Sven, and Keith then all sighed and let their hands fall to the table. Lance gleefully gathered the poker chips towards him, hoarding his prize.
"That’s the fifth game in a row," Pidge complained.
"Get used to it, guys," Lance said.
Allura glanced at Keith, who didn’t seem to mind losing. Keith had not won a single game of poker since they started. It was one of the skills he hadn’t completely gotten back. In fact, Keith hadn’t really been too excited about playing cards. Not that he minded the company. He just didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. He was still not fully comfortable hanging out with virtual strangers. The others sensed this also, but tried to ignore it.
"Nice game," Keith spoke up.
Lance glanced up at his friend, his face slightly troubled through the grin. Though he was enjoying his winning streak, he knew he wasn’t winning against his Keith. Lance’s triumph was hollow and short-lived as he continued to study his old friend, trying to find any hint of the old Keith he used to know. But try as he might, he just couldn’t.
Keith then leaned back in his chair and yawned involuntarily.
"Tired, Keith?" Allura asked.
Keith seemed a bit embarrassed at her question.
"Sorry, Your Highness," he told her, "Guess I haven’t caught up on my sleep just yet."
Allura frowned. That was another problem. Ever since he had woken up, Keith had begun calling her "Your Highness" instead of Princess like he usually did. It just didn’t sit right with her.
"Why don’t ve not call it a night?" Sven proposed, "Ve have early practice in da morning anyvays."
They were all game, especially Keith. Hunk collected and put away the cards and they all stood to leave. Pidge stretched, then also found himself caught in a yawn.
"You guys are pathetic," Lance said, shaking his head, "We been in an actually battle in over a week, and you’re still tired."
"Give us a break, Lance," Pidge told him, "We’ve been working overtime the past week."
* * *
Go to Part Two