"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.


Chapter 20
Horrible Discovery

Red and Green Lions had landed on the frozen wasteland that is Planet Neeve.  Unpopulated, thanks to Lotor, Neeve was now nothing more then a desolate, frozen tundra.  All except the caves...where greenery flourished thanks to the miracle of the hot springs.

Lance and Pidge had followed Gem's instructions, arriving to the place where she knew the Parma trees grew as a forest cluster.

With blasters drawn, Lance and Pidge, accompanied by Gem, moved carefully through the caves, marveling at the wonder that the hot springs produced.

"It's like being in a hot house!" Lance commented, his mouth hanging open in awe of what he saw. "Flowers, trees, plant life... even grass! It's like a planet inside a planet!"

Pidge had his scanner open and active.
"Gem...where are the trees?" heasked.

"Just over there..." she pointed to the distance.
"We're only a brisk walk away."

The three started walking toward the area
she had pointed out. Pidge's scanner was
producing readings, but as they approached the
area... Pidge stopped dead in his tracks.

"Lance," he gulped hard. "I'm reading signature remains of the Parma trees only!  No plant life signs!"

"What?" Lance shouted. "You're scanners must be off.  There are trees right ahead of us!"

"Yeah, but there's no Parma Trees!  At least, they're not giving out the same data readings that I collected from Arus's flora library banks!   I mean...they should be there, but my scans say they're not there at all!"

"Explain." Lance asked quietly. "What do you mean 'not there'?"

"I mean...their molecular structures should be showing up on my scanners by now.  I'm getting no readings that any living Parma Trees are in this area." Pidge replied.

Lance turned to Gem. "Well...is it possible you have the wrong location?" he asked her.

"No!  I know this area like the back of my hand!  This is the only place on the planet where the Parma Trees grow.  And there should be several hundred of them...just beyond this bunch of Zeko Saplings!"

"Okay, let's just get over there." Lance ordered. "Maybe the Zekos are blocking out Pidge's scanners."

Pidge ran on ahead, while Lance walked along with Gem.  As Pidge made his way through the Zeko Trees, he suddenly stopped dead and gasped aloud.

"Oh no..." he whispered as he looked over the area just beyond the Zeko Trees.

"This can't be..." he mumbled in unbelief. He immediately started screaming for Lance. "Lance! Lance...get over here, quick!"

Lance and Gem came running through the thick brush that separated the Zeko Trees from the Parma Trees. Gem gasped in horror.

"Where are they?" Lance asked, gazing around.

The entire area that was supposed to be a forest of Parma Trees, was now nothing more then a smoldering pile of burned up wood.  Every last Parma Tree had been blasted into non-existence.

"They've...been destroyed!" Pidge gasped.

"Lotor...he must have done this!" Gem screamed. "He must have come back and ordered their destruction!"

Pidge whipped around and stared at Lance...his eyes as big as baseballs. "What about Keith? What do we do now?"

Suddenly, there was a beep on Lance's COM from Castle Control. Lance turned on his wrist COM link, and answered the hail.

"Lance here,"

"Lance, this is Allura!  Did you find the Parma Trees?" Her voice sounded nearly frantic.

"Did Keith get worse?" he asked suddenly.

"Lance...I must know!  Answer me!  Did you locate the Parma Trees?" Allura asked again.

Lance sighed, wishing he could wake up from this terrible nightmare, so that he wouldn't have to be the one to tell the Princess what they found. He forced himself to break the news to her

"Princess, we found them...but I'm afraid they're not in the condition we had hoped we'd find them in." Lance replied in a disappointing tone.

The COM suddenly grew silent for a few moments...and then Allura very softly asked the next question. "They're gone, aren't they?"

"Yes, Princess." Lance replied softly. "Every last one looks like it was blasted away. We suspect Lotor"

Coran quickly came on the COM. "We know it was Lotor!  Right now, he is in orbit around Arus, demanding Allura to surrender herself in exchange for the only Parma bark left in existence.  We had hoped it was only a bluff...but now"

"You tell the Princess that she
absolutely can not turn herself over
to Lotor!" Lance shouted.
"You tell her that, Coran!"

"Sadly, I have.
However, I feel she is
going to decide otherwise."
Coran replied somberly.

"You tell her we're heading back!  Tell her to launch the other three lions to defend the Castle!" Lance shouted.

"This is Allura.  Lance...we can't possibly hold out until you and Pidge get back here..."

"Yes," Coran's voice echoed in the background. "It appears that Lotor has done his homework.  He waited for us to send the lions out on this mission, allowing us to believe that we would find Parma bark.  And after you were a considerable distance away from Arus, he launched his threat against thePrincess."

Lance waved at Pidge, who immediately took off running back through the brush and into the trees where they had just come from.

"Allura... Allura... I know you can hear me!  You can't turn yourself over!  You know that Keith would never allow it!" Lance shouted to her as he and Gem ran back from Red Lion.

At that very moment, Keith had found the strength to get himself out of bed.  He knew where Lotor was concerned, it meant no good.  His devotion to Allura brought him to his feet somehow, and he proceeded to sneak out of the infirmary, and head down the hallway to Castle Control.

Using the wall to balance himself, and keep him on his feet, he slowly took one step at a time, moving slowly and methodically down the hall.

As he got closer to the control room, he began to hear the conversation between Lance, the Princess and Coran

Keith heard Coran's voice first...

"Yes. It appears that Lotor has done his homework. He waited for us to send the lions out on this mission, allowing us to believe that we would find Parma bark. A nd after you were a considerable distance away from Arus, he launched his threat against the Princess."

The next voice he heard was Lance over the COM...

"Allura...Allura... I know you can hear me!  You can't turn yourself over!  You know that Keith would never allow it!"

Keith's blood began to boil as he came around the corner, unbeknownst to anyone, and heard Allura's response back to Lance.

"Lance...I have no choice!  There are no Parma Trees left!  And without them, there is no bark that can save Keith's life!  I can't stand by and watch him dienot when I have the power to do something!  If Lotor is willing to give us the Parma bark in exchange for me, then I have no choice but to give in to him!"

"I won't let you..." Lance replied over the COM.

"Me either, Princess!" Pidge also replied, echoing Lance's sentiments.

"Or me!" the angry voice behind them agreed.

Allura, Coran, Hunk, Sven, Romelle and Bandor quickly turned around and saw Keith leaning weakly up against the doorway entrance, gripping to its frame for support.  Allura gasped as she saw Keith standing there.

"Keith!  What are you doing out of bed?  You should be resting!" Allura cried, signaling Sven to run up with her to his side.

"You can't... give yourself up to him, Allura!" Keith firmly stated, his body shaking with chill. "I won't let you...not even if it means ...my life!  Do...do you hear me!"

Allura attempted to defend her position.  But Keith immediately cut her off. "Keith...I must..."

"No!  I will not allow it, Allura!  I mean it! 
Not if it means my life verses your freedom! 
I'm telling you... absolutely not!" he shouted.

"I must, Keith!  I can't live with my freedom
knowing it cost you you're life!" she wept.

"And I can't live...period...knowing my life
cost you your freedom, and condemned
you to remain with that monster!"
Keith said, nearly shouting again.
"I won't allow it, Allura!  The answer's no!"

"It's my life!  And it's my choice
what to do with it!" she shouted
back tearfully.

"Do you ...want to go with Lotor?"
Keith shouted at her fiercely.
Allura remained quietstaring at him.
He repeated his question. "Well...do you?"

"Of course not!" Allura shouted, now angry with him. "But I have no choice!"

"You do have a choice!  You can choose to say no!  And that's what I expect you say!" he replied. "Allura...I want to live as much as anyone of you.  But...I can't live with myself... if you were enslaved to that thing out there for my life's sake!  Do you realize what my life would be like, knowing I was the reason you chose to give up your freedom?"

"Keith..." she said softly. "Don't you realize that I would be lost without you?"

"Then you'll be lost either way!  Because if you do what you're planning on doing, Lotor isn't going to simply allow you to see me or any one of us ever again!  You'll be secluded... separated from us for the rest of your natural life!  I can't live knowing that's your fate! Please, Princess...I'm asking you...as my....as my friend...don't do this...please!"

"Keith...if there were some other way..." Allura started to say.

"I'm begging you, Allura. Please...for the sake of Arus...which is the greater of any of these issues, you must protect yourself from Lotor!" Keith pleaded. "Please Allura..."

Suddenly, Keith collapsed, having lost the strength to hold himself up.  Sven reacted quickly, cushioning his former Commander's fall to the floor by grabbing on to him and slowly lowering him down.

Allura turned away...weeping harder then she had done in a long time.  Her father's death was the only other time she had cried this fiercely.

She was torn between her desire to save Arus, and her desire to save Keith.  And she wasn't sure which one was the greater impulse in her mind.

Using her thumbs to wipe her cheeks, she turned to Coran, who already had signaled for the medics.

Coran looked at his Princess. "What do you intend to do, Your Majesty?" he asked, almost fearing her answer.

"I...I don't know, Coran," Allura wept bitterly. "I...I just don't know!"

Suddenly, Allura turned and ran out of the room.  Her agonized crying could be heard all the way down the hallway as she ran out of sight.  Sven looked down at Keithand paused at the sight he saw. His friend had tears welling up in his own eyes.

Carefully, Sven wiped the tears from Keith's face, and Keith looked up at him. "Sven, my friend.  You must promise me..."

"Anyting, Keit.  You know I'd do anyting for you..." Sven replied somberly. "Jist name it..."

"Don't let her do it!  Please Sven...she doesn't understand what... what she means...to...m..."

Then, Keith slowly slipped into unconsciousness without finishing his statement.

But Sven knew what he meant...and what he felt for the young and beautiful ruler of Arus.  He understood Keith's conviction against ever letting any harm come to hereven if it meant sacrificing himself in place of her.

Sven understood it all too well as he gazed at Romelle, who was standing across the room with tears in her own eyes.

He looked down at his fallen friend, and as tears began to gather in his own eyes, he whispered a silent reply....

"I promise, Keit.  If I can do anyting to prevent her from doing it...I will.  Rest in dat, my friend."

The Royal Crypt was dark and silent.  Almost eerie, really.  But Allura didn't seem to mind at all.  She found herself there many times, alone, when she was sad, or lost in thought.

She gathered herself by her late father's tomb.  With her finger, she gently traced the Lion's Insignia; her family emblem, and immediately below that her father's name, engraved into the granite casket.

King Alfor DeVille of Arus
Royal Monarch
Rest in Peace, beloved King

"Father..." Allura said tearfully. "I have so many responsibilities here on Arus.  As a royal Princess, I am responsible for the lives of the planet's inhabitants.  But why is it that I can't be trusted to make the responsible decision for the one inhabitant I love more then life itself? Why is it that I will never be granted the time I desire to fall in love with him...to share my life with him?  And to grow old with him?"

Allura's face was stained with tears as she spoke to her beloved father's grave. "Oh Father, life is so complicated.  I sometimes wish I wasn't a princess.  I have only two possible choices to make... either to sacrifice myself to save Keith, or to decline Lotor's demand for my submission, which would ultimately condemn Keith to certain death."

The tears once again flowed freely down her cheeks,
glistening in the reflecting light provided by the
torches in the crypt. "Father...what shall I do?"

"Allura...daughter, you must save yourself for
the sake of Arus." The voice of King Alfor resounded.

"And what of Keith?" Allura said angrily. "Why must he die on my behalf? Don't I have the right to decide that?"

"My child...love is a very complicated process.  If you love something, then send it away.  If it returns to you...it was always yours.  But if it does not return...then it was not meant to be.  If
your love for the young Commander is meant to continue, then love will find a way to continue it...and then, it was meant to be.  But if it does not continue, it was never meant to be...and love will bring the right one around in due time."

"And what if he is the right one...and I'm ignoring that?" Allura shouted. "Then I lose the only man I will ever love?  No Father!  I can not risk that!  I've made up my mind."

There was no response heard in the crypt.

Angry and determined to do what she felt in her heart was right, Allura rose to her feet, and
marched out of the crypt...heading straight to her room to send word to Lotor of her decision.

"I'm sorry, Keith," Allura thought sadly. "I must do this. I know you won't understand.  But perhaps...someday you will.  And perhaps someday, you'll find it in your heart to forgive what I'm about to do out of love for you, Keith."

She walked determinably to her chambers, and as she reached them, she quickly locked the door...sealing off any attempt for anyone to get inside to her.

Allura sat down at her desk, and took a long deep draw of air, as if to cleanse her mind free of any second thoughts... and also, to remove the haunting pleas Keith had made to herbegging her not to do what she was now considering to do.

After clearing her head of the thought, she cleared her throat next, and then looked at the time. 

Her hour was almost up.

And her freedom was slowly being sucked away from her.  But she had little choice.  She had to save Keith...if it was the last thing she could freely do.

She reached for the dial on the interplanetary COM link, dialing up the frequency to Lotor's ship...and holding her breath as she waited for him to answer her call.

She felt her own life slipping quickly away, as she heard his voice answer the hail.

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