"The Ambassadors of Arus."

Story by Adele
Story Copyright 2002
A story based on the series, "Voltron, The Third Dimension"

The characters of Voltron are the property of World Event Productions.  All other characters are the copyright of Adele.  Please do not use them without asking for permission.  Thank you.

Enjoy!


Chapter 20
The Prince's Demand


Dawn broke over Zorn...and once again, much too early for Hunk's taste.  It seemed like he just drifted off to sleep, when the sun started to peek through the cracks in the tent's seams.

Pity too, because he was in the middle of dreaming that he was Guest of Honor at the bountiful  feast!

Pidge was also stirring in his cot.  Hunk laid his head back down...intending only to rest his eyes, but instead, drifted off to sleep once again.



In another tent, Lance awoke, and lazily opened his eyes, staring straight up to the top of the tent.  He rolled over peacefully...to find he and Keith had company...

Allura's cot had been squeezed into their tent.  She was lying on her right side, with her head facing toward Keith's direction. 

And he just happened to be sleeping on his left side, facing toward her.  Both of them were blissfully asleep, and both cots were close enough that they could almost be as one.

It was close quarters inside the small sized tent...and Keith had no alternative but to cram the Princess's cot into it any way he could.  He had moved his own cot sideways and had just barely managed to squeeze the Princess in beside his.

Lance couldn't resist the urge to start the morning off with a tease...

"My, my!  What have we here?" he began, loud enough that Keith began to stir awake. "Well Keith, I see that you two just couldn't stand parting from one another, so you decided to put her in here, eh?"

Keith started opening his eyes.  Squinting at Lance, he began a quiet reprimand. "I didn't feel comfortable leaving her alone, in light of all that's gone on.  Got a problem with that?"

"Oh, I see!" Lance joked. "Did you to do anything I would have done?"

Keith sat up in his cot, propping himself up on one elbow. "I have more class than that, you idiot!  Now why don't you just sing a different song over there, huh?  You're going to wake her up!"

"Sure...I could sing, 'When you wish upon a star' for you!" he giggled again quietly. "And it seems to me, you've been wishing pretty hard for this to come true, right Keith?"

"Alright...you've made your point, wise guy!  Now lower your voice and let the Princess sleep a bit more." Keith whispered with a frown now evident on his face.

Lance got up from his cot, and maneuvered himself around Keith and Allura.  He peeked out the tent flap.

"We should get going pretty soon, Keith.  I want to get this over and done with." Lance said, as he turned back to face Keith. "The fact that Lotor is over at the palace, makes me think that offering any sort of alliance with Garrison is just a waste of time."

"Yeah, I know what you mean.  I'll feel better when we've done what we came here to do, then get back to Arus." Keith agreed.

"Me too.  I can't wait to face that asteroid belt heading home." He joked again. "Compared to this mission, the asteroids were a lot of fun!"

"Yeah, got to admit... you're right there." Keith said with a nod.

Allura sighed gently, and the two men silenced their conversation.  But it was too late.  Her eyelids began to flutter slightly, and soon, her eyes began to slowly open up.  She found herself staring at Lance's empty cot.

"Good morning, Princess." She heard Keith say from the next cot over.

Her eyes met his gaze.  "What...what time is it?"

"It's dawn....about six, I'd say.  Sorry if we woke you, Princess." He apologized. She turned her head around over her shoulder, and met Lance's gaze above her.

"Top of the morning to you, fair sleeping beauty!" he flattered her.

She smiled at Lance. "Good morning.  I trust you slept well." She said, a yawn coming across her lips.

Lance had his hands on his hips. "Of course!  I always sleep well!"

Keith huffed, "Yeah, its just everyone else around you that can't sleep well!  You snored so loud, I think you scared the forest critters away!"

Lance pretended to be hurt. "Oh Keith... how could you make use a statement about my nocturnal activities?  Besides, I don't snore!"

Again Keith huffed. "You only think you don't!  The rest of us poor restless souls know the truth!"

Lance rubbed his head thoughtlessly. "Well, maybe I have heard Pidge mention something about it."

Keith dropped his head back to his pillow with a grunt.

Lance looked at his digital watch on his wrist.  He then poked his head out to look at the sky. "Yep...it's going to be a beautiful day!" Lance said, breathing in the clean fresh air.

"So what time is it really, Lance?" Allura questioned him.

Lance looked at his dital wrist watch again.  "Well, Keith was nearly right.  It's about 6:15am."

"Well then, why don't you go and make sure Hunk and Pidge get up." Keith suggested, closing his eyes, now suddenly feeling the weight of his restless night come crashing in on him.

Lance shot his commander a smirk. "Why...and leave you alone with the Princess unattended.... in a tent.... just the two of you?  What would Coran think?"

Keith turned his head up. "Lance?  Did you hear me?"

"Yeah, I heard you." Lance replied, now dropping the comedy and stifling a yawn.

"Then get going!" Keith grunted.

"Yes... Mother Keith!  I heard you!  Can you give me a minute to wake up?" Lance replied, now starting to get a bit annoyed suddenly, and feeling pestered.

Keith lifted his head back up slightly. "I'm starting my count." He teased back in return, knowing that it would only annoy Lance further.

Lance didn't seem too amused now.  But he decided to walk out of the tent anyway.  It felt like Keith was trying to get rid of him.  And probably for good reason...what with a beautiful Princess bunking with him.

He decided he probably would have acted much the same way, had he been in Keith's shoes.

He let the flap shut behind him.

Allura sighed softly, her eyes closed once again. Keith sat up and stretched for a moment's time.  When he finished, he looked over to where she was laying.  She was all cuddled up in the blanket she had from last night. 

She looked as cute as a little angel sleeping on a cloud.

He stood up, gained his balance, then knelt down to the Princess's cot. "Princess...I want you to remain here with Hunk today."

Her eyes popped open quicklyand she stared at him blankly. "But why?" she asked, her blonde eyebrows turning downward.

"Because, Lotor is in the palace, and I just don't want to risk something happening to you." he said quietly.

She suddenly sat up in her cot, and looked at him where he knelt.  "Keith, I'd be safer if I went along with you, Pidge and Lance!"

He sighed again, preparing himself for a fight.  Suddenly, before either of them could say another word about it, Lance had come barreling into the tent.

"Keith!"

Keith looked up at Lance, suddenly feeling his body go on military alert. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Rider!  Coming in fast to our camp!" He pointed.

Keith turned to the Princess. "Stay here where you'll be safe!"

When he and Lance left the tent, Allura stood to her feet, tossing the blanket aside.

"Stay here?" she snorted. "Not a chance, Commander!" She then flipped over the tent flap, and walked outside.

As she gazed straight ahead, she saw Keith and Lance standing near the horse rider. He appeared to be from the palace.  The horse was covered in the Zordanian Queen's personal colors.

The rider handed Keith a letter, and then rode off. Allura ran over toward them. Lance looked at Keith. "Well, open it!" he demanded.

Keith looked at Lance. With his finger, Keith tore open the envelope and pulled a note out of it.  He opened it slowly.  As he read it for a few moments, his face became sour. Lance was becoming concerned.

"What does the letter say, Keith?" Allura asked.

Keith looked up at her. He shook his head...

"Over my dead body..." he muttered angrily.

Allura looked at him, confused by his reaction. "What is it Keith?"

"Keith..." Lance asked, seeing the anger on Keith's face. "Will you tell us what the letter says?"

Keith said nothing, only dropping the letter to the ground.  Then, turning on one heel, he headed back to their tent.

Lance hustled to pick it up. Allura tried to read it over his shoulder. When she found no success in that, she began tugging at his arm... "Well Lance!  Don't keep me guessing!  What does the letter say?" she asked impatiently.

Lance's lips turned downward with anger now as well. He read the letter aloud:



Commander Keith Hunter,

A choice is being afforded to you that will require your immediate response. The swift return of the Princess of Arus is henceforth being demanded. She is to turn herself over to my palace guards effective immediately. She hence will he turned over to Prince Lotor of Planet Doom.

In exchange for your cooperation, we are willing to release Amy Johnson to your care. If you fail to turn over the Princess of Arus by 13:00 hours today, Amy Johnson will be executed shortly thereafter, for her treasonous activities of consorting with the  enemy, Voltron, and its pilots.

Again, you have until 13:00 hours today to make your decision. If you fail to notify us of your decision to turn the Princess of Arus over to my authority, then we will consider that a no answer, and Amy Johnson will be executed immediately.

We are quite sure that you will do the right thing, Commander. We guarantee the safety of the Princess, but the safety of Ms. Johnson lies on what you decided to do.

We urge you not to delay in this matter, for Ms. Johnson's sake.

Respectfully, Her Royal Highness,
Queen Serena Octavia




The letter appeared to handwritten by the Queen, herself.


Allura eyes grew fearful.  Lance began to shout in anger...

"That dirty, no good...  Who does he think he is!" He looked up at the Princess, who was silently looking at him. He shook his head. "No, Princess!  I know what you're thinking!  Don't even think about it!   We aren't turning you over to Prince Ugly!" he seethed, slandering Lotor's name.

Hunk and Pidge came running when they hear Lance's angry outburst. Pidge was the first to get there. "Lance!  What's all the shouting about?"

Lance shoved the letter in Pidge's hands. "Here!  Read this piece of garbage that just came via horseback!"

Hunk came up beside Pidge, and leaned over to also read the letter.  When they had finished, Pidge added his voice to the commotion. "He's crazy, if he thinks we're just going to hand Allura over to him!"

Hunk muscled in, "No way!  There's just no way we're going to let that Lotor get his grimy hands on our Princess!"

Allura smiled gently. "Thank you, boys." Then she sighed aloud. "But I'm afraid there's little else we can do now. Lotor has us this time.  And I won't sit back, and let them kill Amy. " She
closed her eyes and sighed heavily. "I guess I have no choice, but to do what they want me to do."

Pidge grabbed Allura's arm. "No, Princess! There's got to be another way!"

She shook her head sorrowfully. "It doesn't look like there is, Pidge."

Lance, still angry over the demand, turned around and headed for the tent where Keith had retreated.  He needed to blow off more steamand maybe see if his commander had thought of something to do.

He reached the tent, and flung open the tent flap.  He found Keith lying on his back in the cot, his eyes closed, arms cradling his resting head, and feet crossed.

Lance became even angrier. "Are you just going to sit there?  What are we going to do?"

Keith opened his eyes quickly. "I'm trying to think of something!" he hissed at Lance in anger.

Lance walked in, letting the flap drop down. "I'm going to kill Lotor!" he shouted. "If he thinks he's going to have her, he's out of his mind! I'll kill him first, or die trying!"

Keith nodded his head. "Yeah, I'm with you, Lance.  But unfortunately, that's not the way to handle something like this."

Keith sat up on the cot, bringing his knees up to his chest, and folding his arms around them. Lance came and sat down on the end of the cot. Keith raised his eyes to meet Lance's.

"Amy..."

Lance looked over to him. "Yeah. I know.  How are we going do this?"

Keith sighed. "I'm not sure... yet.  We've got to think of something."

"Yeah, well we better think fast." Lance sighed also. "The Princess is out there about ready to give herself up to save Amy."

Keith sighed again. "It might come to that." He said quietly.

Lance looked at him, fire in his eyes. "What are you saying?  Do you mean you're just going to turn Allura over to them?"

Keith shook his head. "No!  I'm not saying that!  I'm saying I don't know what to do yet!" Keith was trying to keep control of his emotions.  Lance's attitude was not helping him accomplish that.

"Well, we don't much time! So we better get to thinking here!" Lance shouted.

Just then, Allura, Pidge and Hunk entered the tent. Keith looked at Allura ...her face was as white as a sheet.

Keith got up from the cot, and walked over to her. "I want you take Blue Lion, and return to Arus." He said quietly, grabbing onto her shoulders. "You'll be safe there.  Your safety has to be top priority in all of this."

Lance slammed his hand down on the cot. "Nice plan, Keith!  What good is that going to do?"

Keith turned like a wild animal on Lance. "They can't get her, if  they can't find her!  Get it, hot-head?"

"Who you calling hot-head?" Lance growled.

Allura interrupted the exchange. "Keith!  Lance!  Pull yourselves together!  Now, I'm not going anywhere!"

Keith turned back to look her straight in the eyes. "Oh, yes you are!  If you're out of harms way, then that's one less thing I have to worry about!"

"I never asked you to worry over me, Commander!" she said, somewhat snidely.

"I don't recall having to ask your permission to do my job... Princess!" he said back to her. "And protecting you is my job!  Like it or not!"

Allura smiled gently at him. "Is that all I am to you?  Your job?"

Keith broke his anger and looked compassionately at her. "Of course not, Allura.!  You know that. I just need to make sure you're okay!" 

He swung around to face Lance. "I knew getting away last night with her was too easy!" Keith began pacing the tent. "It was a decoy...a distraction to keep us from seeing what they were really up to!"

"Hmmm..." Pidge said. "You know, I thought the same thing too.  It was way too easy. Lotor's too smart to just throw her in a damp, dingy dungeon, so easily accessible to us!  We were set up!"

"Yeah..." Keith finished Pidge's thought. "And while we were playing heroes last night, I'll just bet old Hagar went back to the village and picked up Amy!"

"Yep...makes sense to me!" Pidge concluded. "Now, the trouble is getting her back without having to give up the Princess!"

"Yeah..." Keith said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "I wonder..."

Lance looked over to Keith. He could see the wheels in Keith's mind turning. "Thought of something?" he asked the Voltron leader.

Keith turned to Lance. "I'm not sure yet." he replied. Then he glanced back to Allura. "Wait a minute..." he said, his face suddenly lighting up with an idea. "Pidge did you bring any of the personal tracking devices with you?"

Pidge scratched his head. "Yes I did. Why?"

Keith walked a few steps to the middle of the tent. Then quickly turned around to look at Pidge. "Can you modify one of them with a transportation beam?"

"Yeah, I guess so.   But, what good will that do?" Pidge asked Keith.

"If we have Allura wear one of them... you know... hide it on her body somewhere out of sight... then when we safely get Amy away from Lotor and Queen Serena, we can phase Allura out by activating the transportation mechanism..."

"And transport her back here with us!" Pidge added. "Way cool!  I think it can be done!"

"How long will it take for you to rig it up?" Keith asked Pidge.

"Moments!  I'll have it ready in a couple minutes!" Pidge shouted, as he turned and ran out of the tent.

"Yesterday isn't soon enough!" Lance shouted after Pidge, a note of encouragement in his voice.

Hunk scratched his head, not sure if he understood what was being planned. "Okay, I admit it!  I don't understand.  Can someone run it past me one more time?"

Lance walked over to his large friend. "Listen, Hunk.  We can make them think we are turning over the Princess to them, but instead, once Amy's safe, we beam Allura out of there, back to us!  Got it?"

Suddenly, the light in Hunk's head came on. "Oh!  I get it now!  That's a great plan!"

"We'll have to put up quite a fuss about turning the Princess over to themwe have to make it look good.  We've got to act our hearts out to win them over in believing we're giving her up for Amy." Lance said, looking at Keith.

"It has to work," Keith said. "Its are only ace in the hole."

Allura looked at him strangely. "Ace...in the hole? What does that mean?" Another one of the Earth phrases that she didn't understand the meaning of.

"What I mean Princess, is that this is our only plan...and it has to work!" Keith rephrased for her.

Pidge shot through the tent opening, carrying in his hand, a small electronic tracking device. It was nothing more than a microchip.  He proudly gave it to Keith. "Here you go, Commander! It's all ready!"

"Great job, Pidge!" Keith replied, taking the chip from Pidge's hand.  He turned to Allura and handed it to her. "I want you to put this somewhere on yourself... somewhere it can't be found."

She took it from his hand.  Then she looked up at him, with a look of hesitation in her eyes "I'm frightened, Keith.  What if this plan of yours doesn't work?" Her chin dropped, and she suddenly avoided his gaze. "What...what if I never see any of you...ever again?" Her voice
began to crack.

Keith heard the fear in her voice, a fear he'd never known in her before. He looked up at the guys. "Will you excuse us for a moment?" he asked, motioning the rest of the team to give him some time with her.

Lance began to herd Hunk and Pidge out of the tent. "Come on, let's get ready."

When they had left the tent, Keith looked back at Allura. She was now looking at the tiny chip in her hand.

He gently grabbed onto her shoulders. "Princess...trust me.  I know what I'm doing." he said,  trying to reassure her.

Allura looked up at him. "I do trust you, Keith.  I know you'll make sure everything works out.  I'm just..."

She looked up, her gaze meeting his deep dark stare. "I...I'm so afraid, Keith!  Oh...I know I shouldn't be...but..." Her body suddenly began to shake. "I'd rather die than be Lotor's wife!"

Keith pulled Allura close to him, wrapping his arms around her, tucking her head under his chin. "It's going to be okay, Allura.  Don't worry about anything.  You just let me do the worrying for both of us."

She giggled, in spite of her tears. "I'm afraid you'll turn old before your time!"

Keith chuckled. "Nah... I'm a tough guy.  Tough guys don't get old."  he teased.

She turned her head up to meet his gaze once again. "No, you're much more than that. You're a good friend."

He smiled at her. "Maybe a bit more than that too." he added, waiting for her to respond to that.

She smiled, burying her head back into his chest. "Maybe so." She said quietly. "Maybe so."

As Keith held her for a few brief moments, he noticed how wonderful it felt to have her in his arms.  It felt natural.  But his mind raced ahead of the feeling he was experiencing, to the task at hand. He broke off the intimate moment, bringing Allura at arm's length of him.

"We need to go now.  Go put that thing in place." he said to her.

She wiped the tears from her face and nodded. Keith motioned that he was leaving the tent to give her privacy. 

As he stood outside of the tent, he looked up to the sky, sending a silent plea that this plan would work.

It just had to...for all of their sakes.


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