"Forever..."

A story based on, "Voltron, The Third Dimension"
Copyright 2004
By Adele Previte

"Voltron" and its characters are a trademark and copyright of World Event Productions.
All other characters are copyrighted by me and can be used with my permission.

Thanks! 

Enjoy!


Chapter 24
Strength of Words

The next day brought another day of continued sadness...and more protest.  Many of the people from some of the nearby cities, towns and villages were becoming more and more vocal about the hardships that they had been facing.

The nearest city to the Castle of Lions, the city of Modeen, had been the most recent target of destruction by the Doom raiders and the G'Donar fighting squadrons.  Modeen had a population of thirty million Arusians.  The casualty figures had not yet come in, but they
were estimated to be in the thousands.

More than ten thousand Arusian citizens were either injured, captured, dead or missing and unaccounted for...and the numbers kept pouring in each day.

The citizens were becoming hostile, demanding that the Princess show herself to them, if for no other reason, then to hear their complaints for herself.

*********************

Princess Allura marched down the hallway in a fevered pace, anxious in spirit.  Many things were weighing heavily on her mind...


The destruction of cities, towns and villages...
The deaths of some many people...


And now...this new haunting revelation...a dream that had plagued her mind since she first saw it at dinner, last night.

She had hoped that a good night's rest would vanquish the horrible nightmare of Keith's death from her memory, but sadly, she thought of nothing else.  Her whole night was wasted...partly spent in waking cold sweats, as her mind was tormented by awful dream. The other part was spent in the Blue Lion, accompanied by the rest of her teammates, as they once again, fought against the G'Donar and Doom raiders.

She was tired...so very tired.

Not one night of uninterrupted rest in nearly a month...every night, she had been awaken by the sound of the Castle klaxons, sounding the alarm that another attack was taking place. And then, everal more hours spent in chasing down G'Donar fighters, diverting them away
from defenseless populations.

But that was only the half of it.

The thought of Keith, dying before her eyes, coupled with the continuous lacking sleep was simply becoming too much for her to handle.

That...coupled with the continuous, boisterous and rebellious shouting of the crowds outside of the Castle gates.

Allura realized that the people's demand for her presence was reasonable.  She couldn't continue to hide in the Castle's confines... not when the people had no where to hide at night.

She reached the Castle Control room, where Coran had been a permanent fixture at, lately.

Coran turned his head at the sound of approaching footsteps.  He quickly turned to look at her...

"Your Highness!" Coran said quietly.  "It is seven-thirty in the morning!  Commander Keith ordered all of you to bed for at least a few more hours."

"I can't sleep, Coran." Allura said sternly.  "The people are screaming for me to show my face to them."

"Yes, I know..."... was Coran's reply to her.  "I've been monitoring them on the view screen."

"I want to speak to them." Allura proclaimed.

Coran's face grimaced as he turned and rose from his chair.  "Allura," he began.  "The people are not within their right minds.  They will, undoubtedly, say very cruel and thoughtless things to you."

"I know," Allura replied back.  "But I must, at least, show myself, if nothing else.  I know they're hurting.  I'm not blind to it.  They  won't be happy until I do."

Coran nodded his head slowly.  "I warn you, Princess.  Facing that mob will not be easy."

"I know, but I must do it." Allura said.  "I must speak to them."

"What will you say to them, Princess?" Coran asked her.

Allura tucked her head downward.  "I don't exactly know...just yet.  Something will come to me."

"Why not summon the royal speech writers?  Allow them some time to compose something to say to the people..." Coran suggested.

"There's no time for that, Coran!" Allura shouted suddenly.  "I'm perceived as a coward...
safely tucked away in my Castle, while the people suffer!  No...I must speak to them...now."

"I'll rouse Commander Keith." Coran began to say.

"No, let him sleep." Allura said.  "Besides...this is something I must do alone."

"He would not want you to go alone, Princess." Coran said to her.

"I want him to get some sleep, Coran." Allura repeated.  "Don't wake him."

Coran nodded his head. "As you wish, Princess."

Allura turned and then exited the Control Room.  Coran turned quickly to make a call.

"I am sorry, Princess." Coran said in a whispered voice.  "But the Commander and I already had planned for this eventuality...long before you ordered me not to awaken him."

Coran pushed the button to the COM, activating a link to Keith's room.

*********************

Keith was sound asleep when the beeping began...

At first, it was low...as if in some far away place.  Then, as Keith began to come around from sleep, he realized that the beeping was his wall COM.

Instinctively, he sat up and reached over to activate the monitor by the side of his bed.

The monitor lit up before his eyes...and Coran's face appeared on the other side.

Keith rubbed his eyes and yawned for a brief moment, shaking the cobwebs from his mind as he began to address Coran...

"Another attack?" Keith asked, wearily.

"No, Commander...she has gone
to speak to the people...as you
and I thought she might do, soon."
Coran replied.

Keith shook his head again and flipped
back the covers.  "I'll be right there."

"I am sure we shall find her on the
southern balcony, mustering up her courage to speak to the people." Coran added.

"No doubt, Coran." Keith replied back, now on his feet.  "I'll meet you there."

"Understood, Commander."

Keith shut off the COM and quickly began to change into some fresh clothes.  As his tired eyes gazed at the clock beside his bed, he yawned again.

"Couldn't you have slept just a few more hours before deciding to be a martyr, Allura?" Keith grumbled as he slipped on his shirt.

He had only six hours of sleep in the last three nights.

*************************

The Princess stood at the entranceway to the balcony...

She paused, as she listened to the loud crowd noise.  Most of it was mere talking over talking.  But occasionally, an insult was hurled up at the Castle, shouted by someone trying to gain the attention of anyone in the Castle who might happen to hear it.

Foul, horrible insults, directed at the Princess.

Allura bit on her lower lip nervously... trying desperately to think of something to say to the multitudes.



"Are you going to stand there all day, or are you going to say something to them?"



Allura startled at the low toned voice that broke her concentration.  She quickly turned around... and found Keith standing directly behind her.

"Keith!" Allura blurted out.  "What are you doing up?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing." Keith said quietly.  "Why aren't you asleep?"

Allura tucked her chin down.  "I...I couldn't sleep, Keith." she replied softly.

"Because of this?" he said, pointing his finger outward toward the edge of the balcony.

"Partly." she replied, softly, once again.

"And...what's the other part?"
Keith said slowly.

The Princess paused for a moment,
and without making any eye contact,
she gave her head a little shake,
indicating to Keith that she wasn't
going to reveal the other part.

She nervously interwined her fingers
together in front of her.

Keith stared at her from behind.
Crossing his arms over his chest,
he quietly probed her....

"Come on, Allura.  Something's bothering you...something other than this..."

When she still made no attempt to look at him, he quickly took her by the shoulders, giving them a gentle shake.

"Allura...what is it?  Tell me!"

"I...I can't Keith!  I just can't!" she blurted out, bursting into tears, suddenly, recalling the horrible dream.

Coran had approached them from behind, surmising the situation.  "Your Highness...you must get some rest!  You can not speak to the people in this condition!"

The next thing they heard was the shout of a very loud voice, bursting forth above the other voices in the crowd.


"DOWN WITH THE PRINCESS!  DOWN WITH THE PRINCESS! SHE DOESN'T' CARE FOR US! SHE STAYS SAFE IN HER CASTLE, WHILE WE LIVE ON THE STREETS!  DOWN WITH THE PRINCESS!"


Then suddenly, the man began chanting a single phrase that began to gain voice among the people. Soon, many voices began to unite together and the phrase, 'Down with the Princess' began echoing over the Castle wall.

Allura blinked rapidly while Keith still held onto her shoulders.

"They're blaming me!" Allura wept.  "They want me to do all the work and yet, do little to help me!  And now, they want to blame me for the whole thing!"

"Princess...I implore you...come and get some rest...please!" Coran repeated once again.

"I must make them understand...somehow!" Allura shouted at Keith and Coran.

Suddenly, Allura began to compose herself.  Standing straight and tall, she took the pads of her fingers and dabbed her eyes dry and wiped her cheeks of the tears that had fallen.  She looked to Keith and Coran.

"No, I must do this...now." she replied, suddenly filled with a renewed strength.  "The people are demanding to see me.  They have that right.  Even though nothing that I may say will make any difference in their anger and grief, they still have the right to know that their angered chants and cries aren't falling on deaf ears.  I need to sound a call to action...and pray that the people hear my pleas for their help."

Keith slowly released her shoulders. "I'll stand with you, then." Keith said to her.

She shook her head.  "No, as Voltron's Commander, your orders are taken from the throne. The responsibility in all of this is mine to bear and no one else's.  You can't do this for me, Keith.  I have to do it, myself."

"I'm not asking to do it for you, Princess." Keith said to her.  "I'm telling you that I'll stand with you on this!  As Voltron's Commander, I share a part of the responsibility..."

"No, Keith.  I'm asking you stay back.  I can't do this with you at my side. I must stand strong...on my own." Allura replied firmly.  "Please...do this for me."

Keith was about to say something else in rebuttal, when Allura added  "How can the people think of me as a strong leader, if I can't bear their disappointment in me, on my own?  It would be easier, emotionally for me, with you and Coran at my side, but what perception would that give to the people of Arus?  Shall they believe that I am unable to do anything, without the help of someone else?  No...I must do this.  I must.  Please understand."

Keith paused again...then bowed his head and nodded slowly.

He knew she was right. Perception is everything in life.  If Allura is to survive this in the end, the people of Arus have to see her as a strong leader...one who can stand on her own.

Allura nodded back to Keith then turned her attention to Coran, who was standing next to Keith.  His reply to her was a nod of the head, giving her the assurance that she was making the right decision.

"They're going to say a lot of cruel things, Princess." Keith added to her.

"I realize this won't be pretty." Allura replied.  "But...I'll be fine."

The Princess turned and then moved in the direction of the edge of the balcony...girding herself, emotionally, for what was about to come.

As she reached the edge of the
balcony, suddenly the solemn
chant of, 'Down with the Princess'
turned into screaming and shouts
of anger.  The angry mob of people
began rushing toward the Castle wall,
while hurling insults up to her...
along with questions of why she
wasn't doing more to stop it from
happening.

Fathers were hoisting up injured
children onto their shoulders, for
her to see.

Weeping mothers and wives too,
crying for an answer as to why they had lost their families...all that they held so dear in this life.

Allura gazed over the crowd...suddenly stunned by its magnitude.  There were literally thousands upon thousands of people out there.  The Castle grounds were completely filled with people.  The bridge had many people on it too.  The crowds had surrounded the entire
front of the Castle...and all of them, screaming for an explanation.

Allura raised her hands up to try to silence the crowds.  It took several minutes...but the screaming and shouting finally simmered down to where she could actually hear her own voice.

The Princess began to speak:

"My people!  Let me first say that I am not unmoved by your expressions of emotions, ranging for loss and grieve, to anger and frustration.  Many of you have lost your homes...
many have lost friends and family.  Doom has once again, made its presence felt on our home soil.  Prince Lotor has revealed, that he is behind the attacks by the G'Donar race. He has ordered them, in an attempt to break our spirit and our resolve to be a free people!

Prince Lotor wants us to bow before him! And what will happen if we do that?  If we surrender, as he wants us to, our planet will no longer belong to us...but to the forces of Doom!  Have you forgotten when King Zarkon attacked our world all those years ago? Have you forgotten what it was like, to be slaves of Doom?  Your loved ones...taken from you in the night...your homes, burned to the ground before your eyes?  Your children, taken from your arms?

Yes...this time that we face, is a reminder of those days.  But like in those days, we shall
stand against Lotor...defying him!  We will not surrender Arus!  We will not surrender our freedom!  We can not shame the memory of those we have lost!  Their dream was of everlasting peace on Arus!  Shall we allow that dream to be taken away from us?"

A male voice shouted up to her from the crowd below...
"WHAT DO YOU WANT US TO DO, PRINCESS?  BE STRONG AND HIDE FROM OUR FOES, WHILE YOU STAY SAFE IN YOUR WELL-PROTECTED CASTLE OF LIONS?"

Allura frowned, as she pointed out toward the land.

"I have been out there! I have seen the devastation you face!  I know what's been going on! I have seen it...with my own eyes!  Don't you think that it breaks my heart, to see the people and the world that I love so much, bitterly destroyed, piece by pain-staking piece?  The robot lions of Voltron have been out every night...sometimes all night...trying to fight off the forces of the G'Donar! 

Like you, I haven't slept one peaceful night's rest!  I have orphans in the Castle, as we speak, crying for the loss of their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers!  I have ordered the Voltron lions into action...and I, myself, have gone with them!  I have ordered the Arusian army, airforce and navy into battle!  I have the Royal Castle Patrol out among the cities, towns and villages of Arus...preparing the people for battle!  This enemy that we now face, is a fierce fighting species, commanded by Prince Lotor, himself!  What more do you suggest that I do?"

"WHAT ABOUT VOLTRON!" a female voice shouted up from the crowd.

"If I send Voltron out as a single fighting robot, there would be two cities that would be crushed at once, instead of one!  Currently, three lions fight against one attacking force, while the other two robot lions fight against a second.  If Voltron were to single-handedly defend against the foe... more than one or two cities a night would be destroyed!"

"WHAT CAN WE DO?" a young Arusian male voice shouted up.

"Resist the G'Donar!" Allura replied. "Resist by not allowing fear to settle into your very souls! Arusians are a proud people!  Our ancestors have faced war and devastation too...and have survived!  We will do the same!  Stand firm!  Don't give in!  Don't allow the enemy
a foothold in your lives!  We can rebuild Arus...but not if we are slaves to Prince Lotor!  So, stand tall, my people!  Resolve yourselves to fight until you have no more breath to do so!"

"HOW CAN WE, PRINCESS? WE'RE HUNGRY AND TIRED!" another male voice
shouted out. "WE HAVE WOUNDED AND DYING PEOPLE AMONG US!"

Another young man shouted up to her, "WHAT CAN I DO, THAT WILL MAKE A
DIFFERENCE?"

"I need more people willing to help for the cause of our planet's freedom!  I need more military defense units...more patrols...more volunteers for food programs and clothing distribution!  I need more people to gather up the orphaned children and bring them to the
Castle!  They'll need homes!  And I can't possibly find homes for them on my own!  There is much to be done...I can't do it all myself!  I need your help!  Its not just my fight...its yours too...for its not just my planet...its yours too!  And we must all now, work and struggle together to keep our planet out of the hands of Prince Lotor and the G'Donar!  If we give up now...we lose Arus and our freedom, for all time!"

"WHAT ABOUT THE ALLIANCE?" another man shouted.

"We have sent word for help!  But their help is limited!  The Earth still defends against the evil forces of the Drule renegades!  Earth can only send so much help!  And other planets in our solar system are on guard against any possible attacks that they might encounter from the G'Donar!  Don't you see?  Can't you understand?  It's more than just our freedom at stake!  Arus is the stepping block for the entire Azure Quadrant!  If Lotor is victorious here... he will destroy every planet in the solar system...and then, every planet in the universe!  The enemy must not be allowed to leave Arus!  They must be stopped...here!"

Murmuring and grumbling still rose up from the crowd, but now, many Arusians began calling up, asking how to help...how to join the Arusian military...what food programs and clothing programs could they help out with...

An overwhelming majority of people began to gather in small groups...talking amongst each other...while others shouted for instruction as to what needed to be done.

Standing back by the Castle wall, Keith and Coran smiled to each other.  Keith was amazed...but not surprised.  He knew she had it in her to be a strong leader.  This was merely an example of her ability to be just that.

Coran too, was not surprised that Allura was able to speak to the people with such deep conviction.  She was never more like her late father, King Alfor, than she was right at this moment.  Her wisdom and kindness extended far beyond her years.

There were still many who were scoffers...many who wanted nothing more than to express their discontent.  But now, there were many more of the people who were willing to help for the cause of freedom.

Allura spoke again.  "I will send representatives out to you shortly, to help organize groups of you for military training, food and clothing drives, as well as many other needed programs!  Together...we will stand against Prince Lotor!"

The crowd was loud and boisterous, but now, many of them were shouting cheers of 'long live Arus!'.

The sound of, 'Down with the Princess' chants could still be heard above the noise below.

But somehow, that seemed of little consequence to Allura.  She had succeeded in gaining some measure of support from the people.  And now, the time had come to act upon that support.

She quickly turned around to Coran and Keith.

"Coran," Allura said to him as she walked up to them both.  "I need to you to organize training parties.  I need Castle volunteers to go out with the people to train them on basic military defenses, to set up food and clothing drives and to organize search parties to find
orphaned children that are hiding in the rubble of the destroyed cities, towns and villages."

"At once, Your Highness!" Coran proclaimed.

"I'll help with the basic military training!" Keith quickly suggested.

"I can think of no one better for that task than you, Keith!" Allura proclaimed with a smile.

As Keith and Coran departed, leaving her standing alone on the balcony.  But...after only a few moments time...
suddenly... she froze again...

"Oh no..." she gasped gently. "Keith..."

Her mind suddenly caught the sight
of the horrible vision once again...
vivid and clear...of Keith, lying on
the ground in a pool of blood...dead.

Allura gasped suddenly, dropping to the knees.  What was this vision that was haunting her so?  And was it just a manifestation of her tired estate...or a warning of things yet to come? And was the warning, somehow, from her father's ghost, who had been suddenly absent from her for days now?

The Princess remained on the concrete floor of the balcony, griping herself and now, rocking back and forth, tormented by the waking dream she had been plagued with, while listening to the sounds of the Arusian people on the grounds below her.

She could survive anything, she told herself...but...even the thought of Keith's death was enough too much for her to bear.  She bowed her head in sorrowing grief...wishing with all of her heart that she knew the meaning of it all.
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