"Happy Birthday, Keith."

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 17
The Deadly Plot Revealed

Gem opened her eyes slowly, blinking rapidly as her eyes tried to focus in on her hereabouts. As her vision slowly returned, she could see that she was in total blackness, with only the light of the moon shining in the window to help her focus her eyesight.  It was then that she recognized where she was.

She recognized the décor...

"I...I'm in Keith's room," she mumbled weakly.

Slowly, she sat up, her mind blank and fuzzy. "How did I get in here?" she said to herself.

Gem slowly rose to a kneeling position, grasping the chair at Keith's desk, and struggling to find her way in the darkness, using the moon's natural light as her guide.  Inch by inch, she rose to her feet feeling like a powerful force of some kind had hit her.

Suddenly...her mind called the last 24 hours into remembrance. 

She recalled Hagar's visit...
...the plot she was intending to see fulfilled.

The chain that Hagar was going to give to Keith in her placeand how Hagar had turned her into some sort of winged creature.

Then...she gasped out loud as her eyes tried to focus in on Keith's bed.   She remembered it all now...

She had flown here to try to warn him...try to tell him to take off the necklace...she remembered trying to stop Hagar from giving it to him in the first place, and how her efforts were thwarted when Hagar struck her down.

The chain...

Keith...

He's wearing it...

Oh no... Keith!

She immediately staggered to the door of his room, and exited out of it into the hallway.

As she stumbled down the hallway, she began to see a commotion ahead.  There were many people standing around

Gem began hearing conversations from people something about, 'The Commander collapsing during the ball' and 'I hope he recovers'....

It was then that she knew the Albacorn poison was taking affect...and rapidly.  She had to find himwarn someone...tell them...but...tell them what?

Hagar gave the necklace to Keith disguised as Gem.  Who's going to believe her now?  That's when she saw Hunk and Pidge, standing off to the side, leading people out of the Castle.  She quickly ran up to them.

"HUNK!  PIDGE!" she shouted as she ran toward them.

Hunk stopped and looked up in the direction he had heard his name being called out from. He smiled and nudged his friend Pidge in the side.

"Hey! Look who's coming!" Hunk shouted.

"Gem!" Pidge hollered to her as
she ran toward them. Pidge looked
over to Hunk. "Wonder where she's been?"

"Yeah, she missing the party!" Hunk added.

"Yeah," Pidge elbowed his large friend.
"The party's over!"

Gem ran up to the two Voltron Force members, huffing and puffing, trying to catch her breath.
She nearly collapsed in Hunk's arms.

"Hey Gem, where've you been?" Hunk asked.

"Yeah, we've all been worried sick about you" Pidge started to say.

Gem looked up, a horrified expression was on her face. "Keith...is he...is he..." she panted.

"He collapsed a little while ago." Pidge replied. "He was taken to the infirmary.  I'm not sure what happened"

"I know...you've got to take me to him...immediately!" she cried. "His life is in danger!"

"Come on!" Hunk shouted, grabbing her by the hand and leading her through the crowd. Pidge was right behind them both.

Hunk looked at her. "What's wrong with him?"

"He's been poisoned!" she replied.

"Poisoned?  How?  By what?" Pidge said from behind.

"It's a long story, just get me there at once!" she replied. "Before it's too late!"




Dr. Gorma came back into the room where the two princesses, Allura and Romelle, were waiting. Lance was also there.  They were standing around a medical bed that Keith had been placed in, hooked up to several medical systems and monitors that were helping to regulate
his pulse and respiration.

Gorma had a somber expression on his face,
as he approached the group.
Allura stepped away from Keith side
to approach the Royal Physician.

"What's wrong with him, Dr. Gorma?"
she asked, almost in a panicked
voice.

Dr. Gorma sighed, shaking his head.
"I can hardly believe it. I ran
the blood test and skin samples
three times to be sure I was right."

"Right about what?" Lance barked impatiently.
"What's wrong with Keith?"

"The Commander is suffering from some sort of poisonous reaction. I can't track down the source, or the kind of poison.  It's unfamiliar to me.  And I don't know how to stop it." Gorma replied.

"Poison?" Romelle gasped.

"What do you mean that you can't track it down?" Allura asked desperately.

"I don't know what it is, Princess.  I'm unable to stop its progression.  It's literally permeating every cell in his body... breaking them down one by one, and slowing the process of his body's
natural ability to produce white blood cells to battle the illness." Gorma explained.

Tears began to well up in Allura's eyes. "You... you can save him... can't you?"

Gorma looked at Keith lying in the bed, then glanced to his Princess.  He sighed sadly. "Princess... I'm afraid that without knowing what it is... I can't hazard a guess as to the treatment to combat it. I'm afraid that Commander Keith will die... perhaps in as little as a few hours... or as long as a week."

The tears in Allura's eyes freely fell upon hearing the news.

"No...no" she wept, shaking her head at Gorma. "It can't be..." she whispered. "You must be wrong!"

Gorma dropped his head... "I wish with everything inside of me, that I was, Your Highness."

Behind her, the news had brought Romelle to tears as well.  Lance just stood there, shaking his head. "I...I don't understand..." he said, reacting with anger in his voice. "What is it that's killing him?"

"...neck-lace,"

Allura, Romelle and Lance turned suddenly.  The weak voice they heard was Keith's.  Allura quickly ran to his side, and Lance and Romelle did likewise.  Allura wiped the tears from her face as she reached for his cheek with her hand.

"Keith...what did you say?" Allura whimpered.

"N...n...neck-lace." he forced out of his mouth, his voice just above a whisper.

Allura shook her head. "I don't understand what you mean, Keith."

Suddenly, Lance had a revelation. "The necklace... you mean the chain, Keith?" he said to his friend. "You mean the one that Gem gave you as a present for your birthday?"

Keith nodded his head slightly.

"What chain?" Allura asked Lance abruptly. "He received a chain as a gift?"

Lance began thinking out loud "Yeah, she said she bought him a birthday gift, and she gave it to himyesterday!" Then he looked down at Keith. "Keith... you don't think that Gem could have possibly..."

Keith nodded slowly, reaching for it with his hand.  Grabbing it, he attempted to yank it off of his neck, but found he hadn't the strength to do so.  Lance reached for it with his bare hands, and Keith pulled it away from him suddenly.

"No Lance!" Keith cried in a cracking tone. "Don't touch it... I'm sure now... this is it..."

"Keith...Gem gave this to you?" Allura questioned him.

"Gem...yes..." he replied weakly and now feeling himself slipping into unconsciousness once again.

"And now she's disappeared..." Lance replied, seeing for the first time what Keith meant. He leaned into him. "Keithstay with me for another minute.  How do you know this is the source of poison?"

Groggy, Keith turned his head from side to side, trying to stay conscious. "I started feeling weaker and sick... right after...I put...it on ...my neck She insisted I...I wear it..."

"She's the one responsible?" Lance said, flustered at the news. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure...got to be so," he slowly said, with a pained expression on his face.  Then he forced his eyes onto Allura. "Sorry... Princess...for ruining...your party..."

All she could do was weep.  Allura bent her head down until it was resting by Keith's shoulder.

Still clutching the chain in his hand, Keith turned his head and looked at her...suddenly finding the strength to bring his free hand up toward her, and then, curled it around her head. Allura winced at the incredible heat from his sick body.

"Don't cry, Allura" he said weakly. "Please...don't cry."

"Oh Keith," she heaved, bringing her head up to look at him in the eyes. "You have to fight... you have to!"

Keith managed a smile. "This thing's stronger then me...I'm afraid," he replied, breathing sporadically. He then tilted his head over to the other side, focusing in on his friend and second in command.

"Lance," Keith muttered slowly.

Lance leaned down to his friend. "Yeah, Keith?" he said.

Keith's eyes moved from Lance to gaze toward Allura for a moment.  Then back to Lance once again. "Promise me...you'll take care of her... make sure she's safe always." He breathed.

Lance shook his head. "No...you've got to do that, Keith!  You've got to fight!"

"I can't, Lance. Whatever this is... it's too strong. I can't..."

"You can, and you will!" Lance said forcefully, tears now starting to brim over his eyes.

Dr. Gorma reached down over the Princess, and with a pair of cutters, he cut the chain from around Keith's neck.  Then with a pair of gloved hands, he quickly whisked it away to his medical scanner for analyze.  Allura hardly noticed the Doctor's actions.

Keith smiled weakly. "Promise me... Lance...you've got to promise me..."

Lance quickly sucked in his lower lip. "I...I promise..." he reluctantly replied, then added, "I promise, until you get better!"

Keith's smile quickly erased itself. "You heard Dr. Gorma.  Unless there's some miracle...I'm going to die, Lance. I guess...I didn't see this coming..."

Then he slowly turned his head back to the grieving Princess  Allura. "I should ...I should have listened to you.  You were right... something ...wasn't right about...Gem.  Sorry."

Allura shook her head. "Let's not worry about that now, Keith...you must concentrate all of your strength on getting better soon!" she replied, trying to encourage both Keith and herself.

"Allura..." Keith sighed, feeling his eyelids growing heavier, "I only wish that we had...more time..."

"We'll have all of the time in the world...once you get well!" she wept.

"Princess... I... wish I had told you...that... I..."
Keith's voice drifted off as he slipped once again
into unconsciousness.

Allura brought her head up to look directly at him.

"Keith...Keith...KEITH!" she screamed,
suddenly shaking his arm.

"NO! Don't go to sleep!
Please Keith!  You have to stay
awake! You...you can't...no!"

Romelle quickly came up along side
her grief-stricken cousin, holding her in her arms.

"Allura...you can't help him now." Romelle tearfully said.

Lance turned himself completely around, using the sleeve of his formal uniform to wipe his face.

Dr. Gorma solemnly approached the melancholy group. "I've isolated the poison."

All eyes quickly turned to him as he continued. "It's from an Albacorn plant, found only in the warm hot spring caves on the frozen planet, Neeve.  It's deadly.  Once a person comes in contact with it, the poison spreads through the body.  The stronger the person, the
slower it goes.  It literally sucks the person's life away, while breaking down the molecular structure from within.  It attacks every part of the body...and causes it to stop functioning."

"And... and the chain?" Allura tearfully asked.

"It's laced with it.  Once Commander Keith placed the chain on, the Albacorn began absorbing into his skin.  Prolonged exposure increased the amount his body absorbed." Gorma replied.

"Can you produce a cure, now that you've isolated the cause of the illness?" Romelle asked.

Dr. Gorma shook his head. "I'm afraid that there is no known anti-toxin, Princess Romelle."

Lance shook his head. "Neeve...then...Keith was right...  It was Gem.  She did this?"

"But why?  Why Keith, of all people" Allura sobbed. "He's done nothing to herhe's been nothing but kindhearted toward her!  Why would she attack him like this?"


"Because, Prince Lotor wanted him dead and out of the way..."


The four people turned toward the door.  Standing there were Hunk, Pidge...and Gem.  It was her voice that they heard.

Lance quickly approached the threesome. "You did this?" he shouted in anger at Gem. "You? Why? After we trusted you... you do this to him?"

"NO!" she shouted back at him.

"It was you!  That was your gift!" Lance shouted back. "I saw you with it...it was in a box!  I saw you holding it in the garden...just yesterday!"

"Its true...I did have it...but I refused
to give it to him!" Gem replied.

Hunk stood between her and his angry friend.
"What's this all about?" he shouted at Lance.

Lance lifted his arm, and shot a pointing finger at Gem.

"She poisoned Keith! He trusted her...
and now... his trust of her is killing him!"

"What are you talking about?" Pidge asked.

"She's sentenced Keith to death!  He's dying!  He's lying in that bed, and will probably be dead by tomorrow!  Thanks to her!" Lance shouted. "I trusted you...I even dared to find myself denying this for you... but it was you...wasn't it?  ANSWER ME!" he shouted at the
top of his voice as he lunged toward her.

Hunk again stood between them and blocked the way.

Allura and Romelle quickly came to Lance's side, attempting to restrain him while Hunk pushed on his chest to keep him back from her.

"NO!  I DIDN'T DO IT!" Gem shouted back.

"THEN WHO?  WHO DID IT?" Lance screamed. "Your TWIN?"

Gem blinked several times before finally answering. "Hagar, the Witch." she said simply.

"Hagar?" Allura gasped. "How did Hagar get near Keith?"

"She came to meno wait...let me back up..." Gem began. The group listened as Gem explained her story.

"Everything I told you was true.  I was capture and taken away from Neeve, to be a slave for Prince Lotor.  Everything that I told you about that horrific experience was the truth.  But...I didn't escape Doom and I didn't just happen to crash land on Arus...near a river where Keith was.  It was set up that way.  Prince Lotor offered me a chance for freedom if I'd help him get rid of Commander Keith.  But once I started to get to know Keith better, and to see how kind he really was, I... I found that I couldn't go through with it!"

"But, didn't you realize that Lotor would never keep his end of the deal?" Pidge asked. "Lotor has never kept a promise in his life!"

"When you're imprisoned, any offer of freedom sounds too good to pass up.  So, I agreed to help Lotor destroy Keith.  Hagar laced the golden chain with the Albacorn Root, and gave it to me in a box.  My task to was to gain Keith's trust, and present it to him as a present for his birthday."

"Well, looks like you really know how to do your job!" Lance huffed angrily.

"Hear me out before passing judgement!" she insisted.

"Alright..." Allura replied. "Go on, we're listening..."

"Anyway, I started having second thoughts about it.  You all were so nice to me, that giving the deadly gift became something that I didn't want to do after all.  So, I chose not to.  That's when Hagar showed up yesterday.  She tried to force me into giving it to him.  When I flatly refused, she turned me into some type of winged insect.  Then she took on my form and posed as me."

Lance suddenly recalled when he had visited Gem's room last night...

When he reached up and touched her face... the face of the person he thought was Gem...

Lance's mind took him back to that conversation...


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

Lance shuddered. "Geez...you're freezing!" Lance replied. "I think we had better get you to Dr. Gorma right away!  Something might be terribly wrong with you!"

"Oh, I'm fine, Lance, on my planet, my people's temperature drops drastically when we don't feel good.  Even a simple cold can cause us to feel cold. I really should stay in.  I'm not hungry."

"Maybe I should get my dinner and come back here to keep you company." Lance offered.

"Uh...no!  Uh, what I mean is, that wouldn't be proper...you coming in here alone with me. People may talk"

"Aw, who cares what people think. Let um think what they want!  We know the truth!" Lance replied.

"No, really.  I'll be fine.  I'm just going to go to bed now anyway.  You go on without me, and I'll see you tomorrow morning."

Lance hesitated for a moment, then gave in. "Alright...if you're sure"

"I'm sure...really!

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

Lance's thoughts returned to reality.  The stared at Gem intensely.  Then...he finally spoke. "I... believe you.  I'm not sure why I do... but I do."

Gem cracked a very small smile.  Hunk looked to Lance. "What makes you believe her?"

Lance shrugged his shoulders.  "It makes sense.  She disappeared for nearly a day...and last night, she certainly wasn't acting like the Gem I took for a walk in the garden earlier that day. And... something I shared with Keith that I just remembered about.  I stopped by before dinner to see Gem...to pick her up for dinner.   That's why I was late getting there."


Hunk rubbed his head. "Oh yeah...I remember you were late, because I was starved, and getting pretty ticked off waiting for you!"

Lance waved his hand. "Yeah, but listen to this!  When Gem said she had a headache, and wasn't coming for dinner, I reached my hand up and touched her face. S he was ice cold!  I mean...really cold!  I thought it was weird, and offered to take her down to see you, Dr.
Gorma.  But she refused, insisting that she'd be okay."

"That was Hagar!" Pidge shouted.

"It had to be!" Lance agreed.

"It was Hagar," Gem affirmed. "By that time, I was unconscious, when Hagar swatted me down while I flew around Keith, trying to prevent him from accepting the chain from Hagar. She had my form!  It was like looking at a very large version of myself.  It was scary.  Anyway, she swatted me out of the air, and I remember slamming up against the wall in the hallway.  I must have been out for several hours, because when I woke up again and started flying around, I noticed it was dark."

"And then what?" Allura asked.

"Then, I wanted to make sure Keith was alright.  So I flew to his room, and remained there.  I eventually had fallen asleep...exhausted.   When I next awokeit was still dark out, but Keith was no longer in his bed.  It was then that I realized that I had returned to my human form.  I got up and walked out of his room, with intent on finding him to warn him about the chain around his neck." Gem said.

"And that's when you found us!" Hunk finished.

"Whoa, it all makes sense now.  Hagar was following Lotor's plan when Gem wouldn't go through with it!  She's the one you saw Lance...not Gem!" Pidge said.

"At least we know how it happened," Romelle said softly. "We can at least be comforted in knowing Gem didn't betray Keith."

"Yes, but now Lotor's going to kill me for disobeying his order to kill Keith." Gem said.

"We'll never let that happen," Allura said sympathetically. "Right, boys?"

One by one, Hunk, Pidge and Lance agreed with Princess Allura.  She then walked up to Gem, and took her by the hands. "I thank you for showing me that my mistrust in you was misguided."

"No it wasn't, Princess." Gem replied, shaking her head at Allura. "At least, it wasn't in the beginning.  You're instincts were right about me.  But, you all won me over with your kindness
towards me.  I just couldn't hurt Keith...not after how kind he was to me."

"I would like to offer you asylum, Gem." Allura said. "You're welcome to stay on Arus as long as you would like.  I'm sure Keith would have agreed wholeheartedly."

"Yeah," Lance mumbled. "But Keith...Dr. Gorma said there's no cure for the Albacorn poison. I'm afraid we're going to have to prepare for the worst."

Gem smiled. "Not necessarily, Lance!  I know of a cure!"

The group suddenly lit up with a beam of hope, and Allura tightened her grip on Gem's hands. "A cure?  Where?" she asked, a tone of joy in her voice.

"On Neeve, my father told me about the deadly Albacorn Root.  He told me the effects it has, and how it kills.  But...he also told me what cures it!" Gem said. "It too is found in the caves of Neeve.  It's the bark of a Parma Tree."

"What's Parma?" Pidge asked. "I've never heard of it before."

"It's a special tree that only grows on Neeve in the caves.  Parma Trees are purple leafed trees that grow in the hot springs of the caves.  They're all over the place, totally beautiful... and the purple bark from these trees, once processed into liquid form, becomes a
healing agent against Albacorn.  Once administered to someone infected, Parma immediately reverses the process, stopping the poison's progression dead in its tracks, and forcing it out of the body in the form of perspiration. As the fever breaks, the victim sweats profusely and the infection is washed right out of the body.   The infection is rendered harmless...destroyed by the Parma extract, so that anyone touching the victim can not absorb the Albacorn through
their own body."

"Can you tell us where in the caves we can find it?" Allura asked Gem.

"Better than that, Princess.  I can show you!  But we must hurry.  Time is of the essence right now!" Gem replied.

Allura turned to Romelle. "Find Sven!  I need him to fly Blue Lion!"

"Right away, Allura!" Romelle replied, as she hurriedly ran out of the room.

Allura turned to her friends. "We need to act quickly.  I'll fly Black Lion.  We'll get to Neevefind this bark...and get back right away.  We must be swift if we're going to have a chance to save Keith!"

"Gottcha!" Pidge shouted.

"We're with you, Princess!" Hunk added.

"Let's get going, then." Allura replied, then looked to Lance. "You're in command, Lance."

"Me?" he said, suddenly feeling skittish. "You're flying Black Lion."

"I'm not Keith's second.  That's your job.  And now's the time to do it," she encouraged.

Lance turned his head and saw his helpless friend lying motionless on the medical bed.  A look of determination flooded his being. "Let's move out.  Gem...you're with me!"

"I'll be there shortly." Allura said, as Lance and Gem rushed out of the room along with Hunk and Pidge.

Allura turned to Dr. Gorma. "Please...do what you can to keep in alive until we return."

"I make no promises, Your Highness.  I can't judge, based on his present condition, just how long he will last.  My advice is to hurry." Gorma replied.

Allura nodded, and walked back to Keith's side.  She leaned into his ear.

"Just hold on Keith.  We've found a way to help you...but you have to hold on...for me.  Please Keith...don't leave me!"

She leaned over and kissed him tenderly on his cheek.  She winced as she could feel the heat radiating from his body more intensely then before...he was burning up with fever.

She knew they had to hurry.

Allura stood up, and picking up her gown, she ran as fast as she could, heading for her room to change lightning fast, and get to Castle Control on the double.

The clock was ticking...
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