."Forever...United."

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
Final Plans to Go . . .


Keith was standing at the foot of Hunk's infirmary bed, when the Yellow Lion Knight had regained consciousness.  Pidge was standing on one side of his bed, while the Princess and her adviser stood quietly on the other side.

Pidge had been talking to Hunk for the last two hours, trying to get a response out of him...anything at all.  Dr. Gorma had said that it might be several hours before he would regain full consciousness.

But Hunk seemed to make a quicker recovery than was originally thought.

Pidge smiled as Hunk's eyes opened slightly, staring up at the ceiling.  He raised his hand up toward his head and rubbed it gently, feeling the large, 'goose-egg' that was now protruding from his skull.

"Whoa...where...where am I?" Hunk said, stammering somewhat.

"In the infirmary." Pidge replied back.

"How'd I get here?" the burly Yellow Lion pilot asked.

"Don't you remember?" Pidge said to him. "You were shot down by the G'Donar."

Hunk rubbed his head again, gently...then suddenly, tried to sit up, now in a most agitated state. "The Princess!" he cried out as he  grabbed for Pidge's arm. "Where is she?"

"Relax Hunk." Pidge replied back. "She's right here."

Hunk suddenly felt a gentle touch on his opposite arm.  He turned his head and saw that it was Allura.

"Here I am, Hunk." she said softly.

"Are you okay?" he quickly asked her.

"Thanks to you." Allura said with a smile.

"Try and get some rest." Coran added.

Hunk laid his head back down on the pillow, closing his eyes momentarily before looking up again. His glance focused in on Keith,
still standing at the end of the bed...saying nothing to this point.

Hunk noticed the gloomy look on his face...

"Hey... you okay, Keith?" he asked him. "You look as if you've lost your best friend or something."

Hunk couldn't help but catch the expression of sadness on Keith's face.  As usual, the Voltron Commander downplayed it.

"I'm fine, Hunk.  Just glad you're okay." Keith replied back.

"Guess I blew it, huh, Chief?" Hunk said, his head, once again sinking back into his pillow.

Keith shook his head slowly and smiled. "No... you didn't blow it.  You did just fine.  I'd expected nothing less from you.  I know that you'll always -" He suddenly paused, thoughtfully, and then, turned his gaze toward the floor...before finally raising his head up once again to finish his thought. "I know you'll always watch out for Allura."

Hunk smiled at the compliment.  Coming from Keith...it meant a lot.

Keith's smile quickly faded as he looked toward his watch.  Allura couldn't help but notice that he had been doing that a lot...more so than usual.  She finally decided to address it...

"You seem anxious, Keith.  Is everything all right?" she asked him.

He quickly looked up at her.  He could feel his emotions begin to swell, as the thought came to him that by this time tomorrow, he would never see her again...would never see any of his friends...ever again.

His stomach churned at the thought as he looked at his watch once again.

The time was now almost one o'clock in the afternoon. Time was ticking by faster than he would have liked it to.

"Keith?" she uttered his name once again, this time, gaining this attention.

He looked at her...this time, painting on a false smile for her benefit.

"Sure...I'm okay, Princess." Keith said back.

She smiled, somewhat unconvinced by his reply.  He was hiding something,  but what was it? And...why now, the sudden formality?  She could feel it...he was distancing himself from her again. A familiar trait of his...when he was trying to be evasive.

"Pidge...I...uh...I need to talk to you." Keith suddenly said, interrupting Allura's concentration.

"Sure, Commander." Pidge replied back. "What's up?"

"Come with me," the young commander said. Keith looked at Hunk once again. "I'll be back later to check on you."

"Sure thing." Hunk replied back, "And when you do...bring me some dessert from the kitchen as a get well gift!"

Keith cracked a smile, then signaled Pidge to follow him.

As they left the room, Allura looked to Coran. "Something's wrong with Keith."

"Something is wrong?" Coran repeated. "How do you know?"

"I can feel it, Coran...in my heart I can feel it." The Princess replied back. "He's carrying a heavy load of care...and I'm not sure what it is that's bothering him."

"Perhaps, you should ask him about it, rather than spending the time wondering." Coran suggested. "If it is something that he is willing to share, I am quite sure that he will."

Allura nodded, as she looked in the direction where Keith and Pidge had just exited.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Whoa! Keith...this is heavy!" Pidge exclaimed in disbelief. The two men were standing in the team's lounge room. He had just listened to Keith tell his tale about Audra...and her demands for
Keith's voluntary surrender. "What are you going to do?" the Green Lion pilot as him.

"I've got an idea...but I'm going to need your help to pull it off." Keith replied.

"What can I do?" Pidge asked.

"I need a way for you to be able \
to track me after I've gone with
Audra." he replied.

"You mean to say...you're going?"
Pidge questioned. "Are you crazy,
Keith?  This woman sounds like
bad news.  How can you even think
about going with her?"

"I've got to go, Pidge.  Didn't you
hear what I told you?  If I don't
go, she's threatening to kill the
Princess! I can't let that
happen! You know that!"

"Sure I know it!  But...how can you just throw your life away like this?" Pidge said in a raised voice.

"Look...I didn't come here to debate my decision! I can to ask for your help!" Keith shouted back.

So...what can I do to help?" Pidge asked.

"You've got until midnight to come up with a plan...I need a tracking device...one that Audra won't find."

"What about a microchip, embedded under the surface of your skin?" Pidge suggested.

"Do you have such a thing?" Keith asked his whiz kid friend.

"Not yet...but I could...in a couple of hours from now," he replied. "Just give me some time to program it. I'll need to make it real small...small enough to lodge in the skin cells of say...your
hand or arm.  I can program the signal to my hand scanner and attach a special frequency to it. With that...we can track you!"

"No...not we...YOU can track me." Keith corrected him. "I don't want anyone else to know about this...especially Allura.  I don't know the full extent of this Audra's powers, but from what I've seen...they're awesome.  She might have the power to probe Allura's mind.  If that's the case...she could easily find out about the tracking chip...and thwart our plans for me to possibly escape, if and when the time is right."

"Understood Keith. It'll be between you and me."

"Good.  Now…get to work. And do a good job on this thing. It's possibly the only chance I may ever have to see you guys again." Keith said back.

"What about the Princess?" Pidge asked suddenly, a note of concern in his voice. "What are you going to tell her?"

"I'm...I'm kind of dragging my feet on that." Keith replied back, sadly. "I was never one for good-byes. But I've got to talk to her. My plan is to leave her in charge and in command of Voltron...
that is...if you think she's a capable enough leader..."

Keith suddenly smirked, winking at Pidge.

"Of course she is, Keith!" Pidge blurted out.  "I was only saying that guff because I wanted to protect her, thinking you'd ground her.  Doesn't look like that's ever going to happen now...uh...I mean... with you...gone...temporarily, of course!"

Keith smiled. "Just get to work.  You're wasting time that I'm running out of." He then turned, as if to leave.

"Where're you going?" Pidge asked him.

"To find the Princess.  You're right...she's got to know...and the sooner the better, for everyone, especially, her." Keith replied back. "Call me when you've got something."

"Gottcha, Keith." Pidge replied back. "I won't let you down."

"I know you won't." Keith said, as he turned and left the room.  "But...before I go find Allura...I've got to see someone else... Jennica."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She was contently playing with the rest of the children...


*I...I suppose...I suppose should just let her enjoy life a bit.* Keith thought to himself. *What I have to tell her will only upset her.  She's seen enough loss in her life.*


The young Voltron Commander turned to leave... when suddenly...

"OH!"

"OUCH! HEY...WATCH WHERE YOU'RE...UH..."

It was then that Keith realized that he had accidentally slammed into the Princess!

"Princess!" Keith gasped, suddenly attending to her. "Wha...what are you doing here?"

"I came here to visit Jennica." Allura replied back. "I often visit with her. She and I have a new understanding of one another. But... I know how fond she is of you. I'll come back later..."

"NO! WAIT!" Keith suddenly blurted out loud, anxiously, drawing Allura's attention to him. "I...uh...I was coming to speak to you next. But...since you're here...I uh...I guess I don't have to look for you."

She stared at him in a curious manner. His face was appeared drawn and downcast...something she rarely saw from him.

"Keith...what is it? What's the matter?" she asked him quietly. "I know something's bothering you. Please...talk to me. Hunk's right...you do look as if you've lost your best friend."

"I'm about to..." he quickly said.

"Huh?" was her response.

"Allura...listen...I...I need to talk to you...but not here. Can we go somewhere...somewhere quiet? Just the two of us?" Keith asked her.

She could see he was nervous about something. That was evident all over his face.

"Keith...what's going on?"

"Please...just...just come with me."

Keith quickly grabbed her hand and began to lead her down the corridor...heading in the direction of one of the balconies.  His steps were sure as he led her through the curving pathways within the
Castle.

Her heart began to pound suddenly. She wondered what this might be about. Then...the thought came to her... in a flash. Could he be ready to take the next step forward in their relationship? But...why profess this now...at such a gloomy time?

Soon, Keith had taken them both to the balcony...and came to a stop at the edge of the cement wall. He still had a firm grip on her hand...as if he were afraid to let it go. His palms were sweaty.
His breathing was labored.

She looked at him, as he stared over the horizon. His eyes were wide...almost...fearful.

Allura reached over and gently covered the hand that had been holding on to hers so tightly, gaining his attention enough to look at her.

"Now...do you want to tell me what this is all about?" she said softly.

Keith stared blankly at her...as if he were looking beyond her, somehow. Instantly, Allura knew something was very wrong.

"No...I...I don't want to tell you this," he replied quietly, suddenly, seeming near to the brink of tears. "But...I've got no choice. You deserve to know and hear it from me, first."

"You're frightening me, Keith..." Allura said quietly.

"I'm frightened too, Princess." he said softly. "I've never felt this way before... scared nearly beyond the ability to reason."

Allura gently reached up her hand to cup the side of his face. "What's wrong?" she said, now suddenly aware that he was physically disturbed. "Keith...you're trembling."

He quickly turned away once again...and now, shutting his eyes tightly... he desperately tried to hide the incredible pain surging though his very soul. This was the last time he'd ever see Arus like this... with her, beside him. His freedom was being stolen away from him...and there wasn't a single thing he could do to stop it.

In less than eight hours... he would be gone from this place... perhaps never to return. The thought brought to him a sense of ...doom...in the realest sense of the word.

"Allura...I...I don't know how quite to explain all of this... but... but I'll do the best that I can." Keith began...and in taking a deep breath and then, letting it out slowly, he forced himself to hold it together...just long enough to convey what he had to say to her. "I feel as if I'm dreaming or something...and just maybe...I'll wake up and find everything's okay."

He paused for a moment...taking in shallow breaths of air.

"Go on...I'm listening." Allura replied softly, encouraging him to continue.

Keith took another deep breath of air, releasing it softly and sadly. With his eyes still focused on the horizon in front of him, he began to speak to her once again.

"Allura...do...do you remember...a time, not so long ago...when you felt that you had to lie to me...telling me that you didn't love me...because you thought it was the right thing to do, in order to save your life?"

"Yes," Allura replied back.

"Do you remember when I came to your room...and told you of the horrible dream I had...the dream of Audra?"

Allura stared at him. "Yes..." she replied slowly. "What of it?"

Keith quickly bowed his head...and stayed in that position for several seconds, before lifting his head back up again. Then...he slowly turned his head toward her, staring at her blue eyed gaze.

Perspiration was dripping down his face...

No turning back now...

"If there was any other way around this...you know I'd find it!" Keith began to say.

"Any way around what, Keith?" she asked him. "What is it? Please... tell me!"

Keith's breath suddenly became shallow once again... his mouth became dry...and his stomach was threatening regurgitation.

"Allura...I...uh..."

"Just say it!" she suddenly blurted out in frustration.

"ALL RIGHT!" Keith suddenly shouted in return... more as a fearful reaction, than anything else.

He took another deep breath, and as he slowly let it go, the tears began to flow as fast as his exhaled breath was escaping his lungs.

"Keith?" Allura began to say...

"The dream was no dream, Princess. In fact...now...it's become a nightmare."

"I...I don't understand," Allura responded.

Keith gazed into her face and said, "Audra...she...she's threatened to take your life...to take you away from me...from...from all of us...unless..."

"Unless...unless what?" Allura asked him.

"Unless...I agree to...to surrender..."

"Surrender...yourself?" she said, hesitantly.

Keith's reply was a solemn nod of his head.

"You can't be serious?" Allura said back. "I don't believe this!"

"It's true...and I can prove it!" Keith said suddenly. "Those bruises on you body...on your arm...I...I know how you got them."

"You...do?" she said, whimsically.

"Yeah...I do.  Do you at all remember anything from your dreams last night?" he asked her. "Anything at all?"

"No...as a matter of fact, I don't." the Arusian Princess replied in return.

"Well...I do.  It all started out as a beautiful dream.  You were in it.  You were running toward me in a field of flowers. We got caught up in each others embrace, and when we stopped rolling...you kissed me."

"Sounds lovely, so far," Allura said, trying to make lightheartedness of the situation.

"But when I looked up into your face...it...it wasn't you! It was...it was Audra! The next thing I knew, I was in some kind of...cage... and then, I saw you, in the distance...chained between to posts. She began beating you with a stick...beating you savagely! I couldn't stop it! The cage prevented me from reaching you!

"Then...I woke up...and I was back in my room. But then, Pidge came to my door, worried that neither of us had made it lion practice. I ran straight to your room...and when you fainted on the floor... Pidge and I found the bruises on your arm. I went into emotional shock! I knew what
happened, but was afraid to tell anyone!"

"I do remember waking to the sound of my alarm going off. It had been sounding for nearly forty-five minutes. It was set to go off at five-forty five this morning." Allura said. "I found that strange at first...I never miss my alarm."

"Me either...but I never made it to set my alarm. After sending the report to Coran, I moved for the couch...just to rest a while before bed. The next thing I knew...I was dreaming...and it was all the stuff I just told you about!"

"Keith...you mentioned that the dream has now become a nightmare.  What did you mean by that?" Allura asked him.

"Audra came to me again...
after I crashed my lion into the lake
bottom. She said that if I didn't
surrender myself to her by
midnight...tonight...she...she
would kill you!" Keith said.

Allura's hands suddenly thrust
to her throat. "Kill me? Kill me...
how..."

"She said she can sever your spirit from your body...apparently as
easily as you and I breath air. And she said that if that happens,
your body would die in the natural! Audra said that if I failed to
surrender to her, that's what would happen!"

"Keith...you can't..."

"Allura, I'm not going to let her kill you!  Not when I can stop it!"

Allura blinked rapidly…her eyes now filling with tears. "But...but...I..."

"I have to, Princess!" Keith defended his position.

"But...but we...we may never see you again and...I...I may never...never see you..."

"I know...and that's what's tearing me up inside." Keith replied back.

Allura was stunned...  "I...I can't believe this...Keith..."

Keith turned and suddenly grabbed her...holding her tightly to him. His hand protectively came up to rest gently on the back of her head, while his other arm wrapped around her back. Her hands rose up his back, gripping tightly to his shoulders.

"I wish I could hold you, forever." he gently whispered in her ear. "If there were any other way..."

"There must be a way, Keith!" she suddenly blurted out, now separating from him to look in squarely in the eyes. "I can't believe that this woman has such power..."

"That's just it! I don't know extent of her powers, Allura!  But she had you convinced at one point too!" Keith said.

"You just can't give yourself over to her, Keith! You mustn't!  No matter what the cost!" Allura pleaded with him. "I don't care what she does to me..."

"Allura...please...don't..."

"I won't let you do this!" she shouted to him.

"You have no choice, Princess!" Keith said to her. "It's my decision to make...and I'm making it."

"Keith..." she tearfully uttered his name. "You...you can't just..."

"No matter where I am in this universe...remember... my heart will always belong to you . . . forever." he said.

"I'll never see you again after today...will I?" she sighed sadly. "Its as if my heart is breaking apart inside...the thought of...never seeing you again...never...never holding you again...I...I
just can't...imagine...my life without you, Keith! It's so unfair! You're being stolen away from me...torn from us all...and you're telling me there's nothing I can do to stop it?"

"We will be forever bonded to each other in our hearts, Allura.  Forever...united... and nothing can tear that away from us.  Not Audra...not Lotor...not Zarkon...nothing."

"Keith..." Allura said, weeping. "You...you sound as if there's no hope..."

"I hope in us," he said solemnly, trying to hold it together. "My hope...is in our love. Distance will never separate us, Allura. But I'm afraid that the outcome will be the same. We'd be fooling
ourselves if we believed in anything else."

"You can't give up, Keith! You just can't! Hope is all we've got!" Allura breathed.

"Your eyes...your smile... your love for me. That's what I'll always hope in." he replied back with a smile, as the tears began to fall from his eyes. "That's the hope I'll be clinging to."

Allura opened her mouth to speak once again...but before she could say another word... Keith covered her mouth with his lips...smothering all of her rebuttals in the tenderness of his kiss and cradling her broken heart in the strength of his embrace.

For one moment...time to seemed to stand still....

And for a moment, Keith actually thought that midnight might never come after all. But all too quickly... the tender scene broke up... abruptly....as the sound of a rushing wind filled their ears...and at once, a single, echoing voice, filled the wind-driven air, that was now twisting around Keith and the Princess...



"Yes...that's it...enjoy each other...because soon...time will quickly come to an end...for one of you!" Audra's voice suddenly broke into a fit of echoing laughter, evil and cold.



Allura gasped in fright... she knew the voice that was now speaking.

"It's...its her!" she said aloud…gasping once again. "Audra!"

"Yes...pretty little Princess Allura! It is I! Audra... your...guardian angel!" the wicked sorceress's voice echoed through the air. "Ever watching you, sweet Princess of Arus!"

Keith suddenly turned and brought Allura behind him in a protective manner.

"ITS NOT MIDNIGHT YET, AUDRA!" Keith shouted angrily, looking up toward the sky. 'I'M NOT YOUR PRIZE UNTIL THEN!"

"Oh...and you soon will be, young Lion Knight. And when it is midnight...you shall either be mine...or the little Princess shall die!"

"LEAVE US ALONE!" Keith cried out.

"As you wish, Keith Hunter...but remember...by the stroke of midnight....or one second past that, will mark the last breath Allura shall ever take."

"YOU'LL HEAR FROM ME!"
Keith shouted, angrily.

Allura was shaking behind him...not
sure what to do next.  The sorceress
was evil beyond anything she had
ever encountered before.

The air suddenly became silent and
the wind immediately died down, returning
to the gentle breeze that once bathed them both.

Keith turned to the Princess. His face grimaced. "Now do you understand, Allura?"

She slowly nodded her head...suddenly numb to everything. Keith's head dropped, as his gaze fell to the floor of the balcony.

"Oh Keith...." she uttered quietly.

Immediately, his head snapped up to look at her. His face dawned a look of determination. "Listen to me... I want you to take my place...as Commander of Voltron."

"Me?? But...but I can't..."

"You can! You can do this, Allura! I know you can! Just believe in yourself and you can do anything! Trust your heart and believe in your abilities! You're the only one that can pilot the Black Lion, besides me! Look inside yourself...and find the strength to do it, Allura! Remember the way of the lion! You must...for the sake of Arus!"

"Not without you, Keith!"

"Yes...without me, Allura!" Keith replied back. "I know you can do it. But you've got to believe in yourself!"

"I..I don't know if I can..." she stuttered.

"Do it for your people, then! You have to look at the greater good! Your people need you...way more than I do! You must be strong...for their sakes! They're depending on you to lead them into rebuilding this world! Your father...."

Suddenly...Keith paused... perhaps he should have never mentioned her father... especially in light of his absence. But perhaps...it was the strength that she needed....to go on.

"Remember that your father expects you to be strong! And I expect you to be strong too! Remember...those who have gone before you have sacrificed much in order for Arus to survive! Don't let me down, Allura! Don't let them down! I'm counting on you to lead the team! You can do it!" he said, convincingly.

"Keith..." she wept.

"Someday...you'll tell your children that...that...I…" His chin quivered suddenly... the words were as bitter spit to him...he knew he had to release her... and she had to be free...free to love
again... free to find...another.

He forced himself to continue...despite her head shaking...

"Someday, Allura..." he tried again, "Your children...will hear the story of what I'm about to do today. And you're going to be the one to tell them. And it will give them hope... hope in Voltron...hope in Arus... and hope in freedom. That's the lasting legacy I leave with you now. That's what I want you to pass on. That way...some part of me will always be here on Arus."

"You have given up..." she murmured softly. "You're...you're saying...goodbye...aren't you?"

"Yes...I am...for both our sakes,"
he said between the tears.
"Forgive me, Princess...but...
but I...I have to leave..."

A quick kiss on the forehead...
and he turned and ran back into the
Castle. The exit resurrected a
painful memory in her mind... a day,
several days ago... where he did
the very same thing...before he left
her, bound for Earth.

She moved to go after him...but stopped as she reached the entrance to the Castle...her right arm extending toward the inside of the Castle. The only man she would ever love was being stolen away from her...and she could do nothing to stop it....

Nothing...at all.

She leaned up against the exterior wall of the Castle... and bowing her head into her hands... Allura wept bitterly, broken in heart... and heavy in spirit.

And somewhere...watching it all as it unfolds...an evil being views the tearful moments of two eternally bonded souls...and smiles with wicked contentment.

Soon...Keith would belong to her...forever.