"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 28
Finders, Keepers


Princess Allura sat in the preparation room as the servant girls put on the finishing touches to her make up and hair.  The dress was pure white, and the vale was simple, nothing fancy.

She gazed at herself in the mirror, trying to fight back the tears that were threatening to come down her face.

She closed her eyes, as a servant girl dabbed her eyes with a tissue.  "Please, Your Majesty," one pleaded. "Do not cry.  You look so beautiful."

Allura remained silent as the girls turned to leave her there alone.  Allura returned her gaze to the mirror before her.  This was certainly not the dream she had for herself.

In the back of her mind, she could picture her valiant Black Lion Knight coming to her rescue. She only hoped he would make it in time....

"Keith," she sighed his name in her mind. "Oh Keith, where are you..."

She settled back in the chair...



"I'm in the Castle, Princess!"



The sound of his voice resounded in
her mind, and she darted forward
quickly, attempting to  contact him again.
She wanted to make sure it was him...
and not just the wish that her heart made.

"Keith...is that really you?"

"Yes, Allura!  I'm in Castle Doom! I'm here with Lance!  Do you read?"

"Do I read?"
Allura thought to him,
her heart rejoicing as she read
his thoughts. "Of course I read...
loud and clear!"

He must have heard her crying his name.
She had forgotten that he was
attuned to her thoughts now.

"Keith, where in the Castle are you?"

"Lance and I have just entered the protective shielding undetected.  We're making our way through one of the open airlocks!"

"Hurry, Keith!  I'm set to marry Lotor in a few moments!"

"Allura, concentrate and tell me where you are!  Hurry!"

"I'm in some sort of preparation room, that's all I can tell you, Keith!  I don't know truly where I am!"

"Can you describe what the hallway looked like when you came in?"

Allura shook her head in frustration. "I don't know...oh Keith!  I'm frightened!  Help me!"

"Princess!  Get a hold of yourself!  Just listen...and concentrate!  There has got to be a surveillance system connected with the computers here!  I'm going to tie into it and see if I can find you that way!"

"Hurry, Keith!"



Crouched in a hallway inside Castle Doom, Keith crawled back over toward Lance.  He peered around the corner to check for any guards that might be around.  He then looked up to his second.

"This place has to have a
surveillance system.  He have to
find Alluraand quick!"
Keith said with urgency in his voice.

"If I plug in over here...
I think we can tie into the main computer.
It should tell us what we need to know."
Lance said, as he turned with his mini
computer toward a nearby wall jack.

Lance plugged in and handed the computer over to his Commander. "Here, all set!"

Keith scooted in next to Lance, and began pushing on the tiny keypad with his fingertips.  He requested of the Doom computer base, the location of Princess Allura of Planet Arus.  A smile quickly came to his face, and he snapped his neck around to Lance...

"I've got her!" he whispered to Lance. "She's in security section B.  Three hallways over to the left!"

"What are we waiting for?" Lance said with a wink of an eye. "Let's go get her!"

Keith nodded and quickly disconnected the computer. "This way!  Follow me!" Keith said, scrabbling forward in the shadows with Lance right behind him.



On the command deck, a robot centurion received a beeping signal on his security board.  The computer had been compromised somehow.  He quickly turned to his superior, who in turn immediately sought out Prince Lotor with the news.

When Lotor heard it, he grinned.

"Well, well," he said coolly to Hagar, who was standing next to him. "It would seem that we have unexpected guests on board. I think we should prepare a welcoming party!  Wouldn't you agree, old witch?"

Hagar bent her globe wand over and conjured up a vision of the intruders.  An evil smile was cast upon her face as well, as she saw who it was...

"I most certainly do agree, Sire." Hagar hissed back.

Lotor grinned as he took note of his two favorite enemies. "Look who we have here!  The brave Voltron Commander and his hot headed sidekick.  How nice!"

"What do you have in mind, my Prince?" Hagar asked, a hint of evil delight in her voice. "Surely you know they're here for the Princess.  Shouldn't we stop them?"

"Let them find her! And when they do, we'll have them all!" Lotor replied. "Keith Hunter and Lance Andrews have been thorns in my side for far too long!  I'm going to pick the rose of Arus, and toss away the two thorns...all in one day!"

"What do you purpose?" Hagar asked.

"Tell the guards to move always from
Allura's preparation chambers.  Tell
them not to interfere with the space
explorer's attempts to rescue her.
But tell them to stay on alert. I will
give the word when to strike!" Lotor replied.

"By your command, my Prince." Hagar replied, bowing before him.

Lotor walked back over to his chair and reseated himself. "Pity," he thought aloud. "Keith and I could have been good friends.  But if it's a matter of good against evil, evil must prevail. Especially when the prize is a beautiful Arusian Princess!"

He grabbed his goblet and took a long draw of wine...



Keith and Lance stayed low to the ground.  They huddled in a corner as they neared the place where Allura was being held, according to the Castle's computer.

Keith leaned over toward Lance and pointed. "She should be down that next corridor."

"These guys are slipping!" Lance whispered. "This is easy!"

Keith hesitated for a moment, rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

As Lance started to move past him to head for Allura's room, Keith abruptly pulled him back. "It's too easy!  I think they're on to us, Lance!"

"You're joking!" Lance replied, waving his hand up and down. "I think you've been watching too many vid-discs!  Those mystery movies are going to your head."

"Maybe you think so, but I'm telling you,
Lance...this has been way too easy! 
The computer's access...clear corridors...
and where are Lotor's guards?  I can't
believe that a Castle this large with so
many slaves on it, carries a bare-bones
compliment of guards...especially with such
a precious cargo as the Princess of Arus
on board!  I'm sure of it... Lotor's on to us! 
And I think he wants us to find the Princess."

"Keith, you're crazy!" Lance whispered. "Now if I were in command, I'd say we hurry up and get Allura, and get the heck out of here, before we are discovered!"

"Yes, but fortunately for us, I'm the one in command." Keith replied.  "Okay...new plan!"

Keith pulled out his communicator and activated it.

Lance grabbed his hand quickly. "What kind of plan is this, Keith?  You're going to get us discovered for sure now!"

"Remember the codes that Pidge and I developed...just in case we had to use a series of taps to communicate?  I'm going to do that right now and I'm sending it to Pidge!" Keith replied, wrenching his hand free. "I'm going to send Pidge a signal for him to cause a diversion
outside in space...long enough to allow us to get the Princess."

"We'll be discovered if you use that thing!" Lance protested, tightening his grip on Keith's hand.

"We've already been discovered!" Keith pointed out. "Now, let go!"

Lance was about to utter another protest, but then he saw the flame of anger shoot out of Keith's eyes, and he suddenly back down from his superior officer.  Keith opened the COM and began tapping on the microphone.

"Sure hope you did your homework, Pidge." Keith mumbled beneath his breath, hoping his youngest subordinate had studied the codes.



In Green Lion, Pidge leaned back on his chair, taking advantage of the little break in the action.  This board began signaling an incoming message.  He quickly sat up straight and called up his display.  The message was from Keith.

"Green Lion here," Pidge replied, only to be greeted with several taps. "What the..." Pidge sat quietly as he listened to the rhythm.

After listening for several seconds, he suddenly realized what it was.

Tap...tap, tap,tap...taptap,tap,tap,tap,tap...

Pidge listened carefully.  The tap sequences represented letters in the alphabet.  It was the code he and Keith had devised, as a 'just in case' measure.

Pidge continued to listen....

"We...are...in...trouble...   Been...discovered...   Cause...a...distraction...hurry...out."

Pidge immediately opened a COM link to the Hunk and Sven. "Guys!  This is Green Lion! Keith and Lance are in trouble!  We need to cause some sort of diversion!"

"How do you know dat, Pidge?" Sven asked.

"They just sent me a message in code!  We've got to act fast!  They said they were in trouble!" Pidge replied hastily.

"Den what are we waiting for?" Sven replied. "Lets git going!"

"Okay...attack Castle Doom!" Pidge replied. "Prepare to fire proton missiles and ion darts!"

"I'm ready!" Sven shouted.

"Me too, Little Buddy!" Hunk added.

Red, Green and Blue Lions turned and began a strafing run toward Castle Doom.



Inside the Castle, in the preparation room, Allura sat quietly, awaiting her doom.  Suddenly, the Castle's security alarms began sounding.  The deafening sound startled the Princess, and she quickly covered her ears.

Allura then heard the sound of someone firing on the Castle.  It appeared that they were under attack.  She smiled; realizing whom it was...

"The Voltron Force!" she cried, and then picked up her skirt and ran toward the door, with the idea of fleeing in mind.  With all of the commotion, she could possibly slip away undetected.

As Allura reached the door and opened it, she ran out of the room without looking forward. She suddenly collided into someone, causing both of them to be knocked off of their feet, and tumble to the floor abruptly.

Allura hit the ground hard, and let out a 'yipe' in the process.   Before she could sit up and look to see whom it was that she ran into, she suddenly heard his voice, and felt this hand grab onto hers instantly...

"Princess!" Keith shouted, scrambling to his knees after her impact into him brought them both to the ground.  "Are you okay?"

Keith rose to his feet, and pulled Allura to her feet at the same time.  She shook her head, recovering from the collision.

Allura gave no thought of it, but immediately thrusted herself  directly into Keith's arms.  "Oh Keith!  Thank goodness you've found me!"

Lance shook his head and shot them both a fake hurt look. "Okay, I know you didn't forget about me!" Lance pouted. "Gee, and I always thought I was your favorite."

Allura looked up from Keith's embrace and smiled suddenly separating from Keith and giving Lance a hug as well.  It wasn't like the one Keith got, but Lance was content nevertheless.

"Gee, Princess," Lance teased. "I didn't know you cared!"

Keith snorted aloud. "Okay, break it up you two!  We've got no time for this friendly reunion here in the open!"

"Oh sure, when you're holding her, its okay to take eternity.  But when its my turn..." Lance again teased his Commander.

"We've got to get out of here!" Keith huffed. "In case you've forgotten, we're on enemy turf! We've got to get the Princess and ourselves out of here!"

He pushed Allura and Lance back into the preparation room, and closed the door.  He then threw the bag he had been carrying to Allura.

"Here," he said. "Inside you'll find one of my flight suits.  It'll be big, but it will also be protective."

Allura quickly picked up the bag and ducked behind the dressing shield.   Lance kept a watchful eye toward the door, while Keith glared over at the window nearby, attempting to assess just how much time they had from the commotion his teammates were making outside.

Keith glanced over toward where Allura was changing, and suddenly felt a lump in his throat. He just now realized that he was in the same room with the Princess...while she was changing! He saw out of the corner of his eye, the white wedding gown that came flying over the top of the changing shield.

Keith tried to avoid looking in that direction any longer.  He couldn't afford to let his mind drift...not now.  He had to get Allura out of here.

Keith called out to her. "Are you about ready?"

"Almost," she uttered from behind the shield.

"Hurry, Princess!  We haven't much time!" Keith reminded.

Moments later, Allura darted out from behind the shield, carrying the bag over her shoulder. Keith was astonished.  Even in the oversized spacesuit, she still looked absolutely beautiful.

Keith extended his hand to her. "Come on, Princess!"

She quickly ran over and took his hand in hers.  Keith handed her a blaster, then looked to Lance, motioning to the door. "Check it out," he ordered.

His second knew exactly what it was that he wanted.  Lance opened the door and pointed his blaster out of it, into the hallway.  Keith pushed Allura behind him, and slowly approached the door. Lance darted out into the hallway, and looked quickly in either direction.

He nodded to Keith that the coast was clear.

The Voltron Commander grabbed the Princess by her hand once again, and brought her behind him in tow, while in his other hand, he had his blaster firmly pointed out in front of him.

Lance motioned to Keith that they should head leftthe way they came.  Keith shook his head. "No Lance, we go right!  Got to throw them off course."

Lance nodded and turned to the right,
allowing Keith to pass him with Allura behind him. 
Then Lance brought up the rear.  They ducked
around corners and hid in the shadows, all the
while listening to the pounding that was going
on around them on the outside of the Castle.

A sudden noise ahead caused Keith to halt in his tracks. 
From the distance, he saw two of Lotor's robot guards,
heading in their direction fast.

Keith turned and abruptly shoved Allura into another darkened corner, and then to the ground, while hand signaling to Lance to drop out of sight as well.  Keith then dropped down next to Allura, covering her back with one hand, while keeping his blaster readied with the other.

Allura's blaster was also pointed forward...ready for action.

They waited...

As the guards approached, Lance, Keith and the Princess could hear the conversation that was taking place between the two robots...

"Prince Lotor said to find her at all costs!" the first robot said.

"But how do we find her?  She's disappeared, and for all we know, she could be gone for good!" the second robot replied.

"If that is the case, Lotor will take it out on our heads!" the first robot replied.

"His infatuation for this human female is really illogical." the second robot huffed.

"No one said that fleshlings were logical," the first robot replied.

As the two robots passed by, Keith adjusted his body so that he could glance behind him.  So, it would seem that Pidge's diversion was working.

Lotor had lost track of the Princess, and now was starting a massive castle-wide search for her.  This made the job of getting them all out of the Castle even more difficult.  Lotor would be looking for her, and would be expecting Keith and Lance to make a break with her.

The Castle exits were probably all heavily guarded, leaving no escape route.

Keith scooted back around and leaned over to whisper in Allura's ear.  "This is going to be tough.  Lotor isn't going to let us waltz out of here as easily as we came in.  I'm afraid we're going to really have to put our thinking caps on to get out of this one."

Lance had crawled up behind the both of them.  His whispered voice sounded distraught. "Now what?  They know we have her, and they know we'll try to escape with her."

"I know, Lance." Keith replied quietly.

"So...what do we do now?" Lance asked.

"Give me a minute to think, will you?" Keith huffed, frustrated by his friend's impatience.

Allura began looking around for other alternatives. "If we could just get close enough to steal a ship..." she began to say.

"They'd be expecting that, Princess." Keith replied, shaking his head no to her. "The exits and launch bays will no doubt be heavily guarded.  We'd be snagged the minute we set foot in them..."

"Then what?" Lance asked again.

Keith sighed, lacking an answer for this question.  He then looked to his right, and saw a ventilation crawlway.  He slid over to it, and opened it up.

Then he turned back to his friends. "For now, lets hide in here...until we can figure a way out of here."

"Crawl in there?" Lance replied. "Aren't there things crawling around in there too? Like rats and bugs?"

Allura sighed slightly. "Do we really have a choice, Lance?'

Keith turned a downward frown at both of them. "Look, we're not on vacation here, with all the luxuries of home!  We're being hunted, and survival requires we make a few sacrifices! Unless, Lance, you have any better ideas!"

Lance and Princess looked at each other.  Lance shook his head, silently agreeing with Keith that this would have to do for now.  Keith then motioned with his hand for Lance to go in first.

Lance quickly crawled into the vent.  When he was in, Keith looked to Allura. "Okay Princess, you're next."

Allura nodded, crawling in behind Lance, and then Keith followed behind her.  He then twisted his body so that he could close the opening behind him.  He then turned back around.

There was barely enough room to crawl through, and the shaft was incredibly filthy.  Maintenance was definitely not a top priority with Lotor.

As they moved slowly forward, Lance's broad shoulders were dislodging a ton of soot, bringing it down on Allura's head.  Fortunately, the lion helmet shielded her from the dirt hitting her
directly on the head.

Keith was rallying them to keep moving forward. It wasn't long before they had come to a split in the tunnel. They could either go left... or right.

Lance turned his head to call back to Keith. "Which way looks good to you, amigo?"

Keith thought for a moment, trying to picture the layout of the Castle, and what direction they first came in from.  After catching his bearings, he made his decision. "Go left, Lance."

Lance nodded and twisted his body to face left, while kicking more dirt up in Allura's face as his feet moved forward.  Allura began lightly coughing, the dirt making its way through her air passages.   She took her hand and wiped her face with it, afterwards realizing that that was probably not the best thing to do with her hand just as dirty as the rest of her surely was.

Keith couldn't help but chuckle slightly behind her.  She was tough as nails when it came to matters of combat and decision.  But when it came to dirt...she was as much of a girl as she could be.  But he had to admit to himself...he was not all that fond of getting dirty either.

The tunnel was hot, and he could feel himself perspiring inside his flight suit.  The sweat on his brow was dripping down the sides of his face, and mixing with the dirt.

He reached his arm up, and with the back of his gloved hand, wiped the sweat from his brow, and continued crawling forward. In front of him, Allura crawled solemnly as she recalled Gem's story about her people being brought here as slaves.

"If only there were a way to get them out too..." Allura thought silently.

"Forget it, Allura!" Keith's voice whispered out from behind her. "We're going to be lucky of we make it out ourselves!"

Allura frowned suddenly, forgetting Keith's new found gift for reading her thoughts. "But Keith, we can't just leave them here."

"Princess, I would like to do something for them, but I'm afraid that three people against an entire Doom army would be nothing short of military suicide!" Keith replied back. "We'll stand a better chance as Voltron, but not like this! And don't forget...we still have to figure a way out of the Doom fortress, with getting killed."

"I haven't forgotten," she replied quietly. "Its just...I hate to see injustice."

"Keith's right, Princess.  We take care of ourselves first, then we'll see what we can do from there." Lance added, agreeing with his boss.

"I know...I just wish, that's all." Allura said sadly.

Keith sighed. "Princess...you have a good heart.  Don't ever lose that.  And I promise, if here's a way to rescue Gem's people, we'll do just that.  But for now, I'm afraid we'll have to settle with saving ourselves first."

"Yeah, how much good to them are we if Lotor snags us too?" Lance added.

Allura silently agreed.




As they continued to crawl through the vents, Lotor was planning things of his own.  He angrily shouted as his Captain of the Guards.

"They must be found!  You idiot!  How can you be so stupid!  The lions were throwing a diversion at usand we fell for it! I want the Princess and those two fools from the Voltron Force
found...immediately!"

The Captain bowed his head. "Yes Sire.  It shall be done as you wish it."

"See to it!" he shouted once again, as the Captain ran past him.

Lotor turned to Hagar. "I want every inch of this Castle checked.  They could be anywhere! I will not lose Allura again, do you hear me?"

"Yes, my Prince." Hagar bowed and hovered away.

Lotor turned and picked up his glass filled with wine and took a large gulp of it into his mouth. Suddenly finding it distasteful, he flung the glass from his hand toward the wall.

As it hit, the glass shattered, spewing wine and sending pieces of glass whirling in every direction.  Lotor was immensely angry, and nothing could appease his anger...accept the recapture of the Princess and the execution of her 'so-called' heroes.

Especially Commander Keith Hunter...Lotor would savor the moment of his death.  Which made finding him all the more urgent.

"I'll find you, Allura.  And when I do, you shall never leave my side...ever again!  And you will know my anger for your disobedience!" Lotor hissed, before retiring to his chambers to await word on their recapture.
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