"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 32
It's Now or Never

After several minutes of adjusting each other, the three Voltron pilots had their disguises in place.

"We look good, I must say!" Lance replied. "Looking at you two, you could even fool me!"

"Thanks!" Allura replied, giving her metal plated breastplate a final adjustment. "Question is, will it fool Lotor?"

"Well, we're going to sure give it the old college try, Princess." Keith said, adjusting his helmet one more time.

"The old college try?" Allura puzzled. "What's that mean?"

"Oh, it's...um...never mind, I'll explain it later." Keith said quickly, forgetting once again that the Princess was not used to some of the Earth phrases. "Okay gang, let's move out.  And Princess... don't say anything if we're confronted.  Your voice will give us away."

"That's for sure!" Lance added.

Allura nodded and followed Lance and Keith toward the cargo door hold. Lance took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then opened the door.

It swooshed open loudly.

Keith cringed, hoping not to attract attention as they entered the corridor.

The Voltron Commander immediately took the lead.  He looked left, and then right.  Surmising where they were, and what direction they had crawled from, he determined the best thing to do was    ...guess!

It was impossible to know exactly which way to go.

He tilted his head to the other two, motioning to head right.  Keith moved out first, followed by Allura, and finally, Lance.

The three pilots moved single file, marching as a military unit.  Their pace was even, as a robot guard unit might march.  By doing it this way, it would hopefully avoid them looking as if they were in a hurry to get somewhere.

When they had reached the end of one corridor, Keith hand signaled to the others to follow closely behind him.

They moved methodically, corridor by corridor, darting in and out of corners, trying desperately to stay out of sight as much as possible. The less confrontation, the better off they would all be.

Keith halted them all, and ducked them into a corner, in order to catch their bearings.

"Which way now?" Lance asked impatiently.

"Hard to say," Keith whispered. "I'm not real sure where we are, so I'm not really sure where to go."

"Me either." Allura whispered as well.

"Great!" Lance whispered angrily. "We have no idea where we are, or where the spaceport is!"

"Shhh!" Keith hushed them both. "Someone's coming!"

The three of them huddled down low.  Another unit of robot guards was approaching from the left.

As the unit was passing the three fugitives, they overheard a communication signal from the command center, requesting them to join other units in the spaceport.

As the guards passed by, Keith nodded to the other two. "Follow them!" he ordered. "They'll take us right to the spaceport!"

They jumped out of hiding, and had resumed their military marching, following behind the detail of guards that were apparently heading toward the spaceport, mathching their foot movements as exact as possible.

All seemed to be working in their favor...until...


"Halt you three!"


Keith, Lance and Allura froze dead in their tracks. It was Keith who turned to face the mechanized voice just behind them. "Sir!" he responded.

"Where are you three headed?" the robot shouted, demanding an answer.

"Headed for the spaceport, sir!" Keith shouted confidently. "We received orders to report there at once!"

"Incorrect!  You should have been ordered to the bridge!" the robot shouted back. "The lift to the bridge is in this direction!  Follow me.  Your new orders are to report with me to Prince Lotor at once!"

Keith nodded, reluctant to follow, but unwilling to do anything that would betray them all.

The robot guard turned and walked past Keith, who had now turned to Lance and Allura.

Lance began to whisper protests to Keith. "Now what, oh brave leader?  We can't follow him! He's going to Lotor!"

"We have to!" Keith whispered angrily. "What was I suppose to do?  Tell the robot who we are?  We have no choice!  We have to play this out...now come on!"

"Keith...I..." Allura gasped in whispers.

Keith turned to Allura, quickly placing his hands on her shoulders as he looked around. "Princess, you've got to trust me, okay?"

A moment passed before she nodded to him. "I do trust you."

The robot guard turned, and upon seeing that the other three were not directly behind him, he called out to them. "I said to follow me, tin-heads!"

Lance grumbled in whispers. "Who's he calling an tin-head?"

"Cool it, Lance!" Keith whispered sternly. "Let's go!"

The three walked straight toward the awaiting robot guard, and then followed him into the elevator lift that would be taking them directly to the command center...where Lotor surely was to be.

The three Voltron members lined up in a straight line, shoulder to shoulder, as the guard remained in front of them.

Thoughts of ambushing the robot guard filled Keith's head...but he stopped short of carrying out the plan, knowing that when the door opened and the guard was on the floor, suspicions would instantly rise.

Allura's heart began beating wildly.  Thoughts of being discovered ran through her head.  But, from her right side, a reassuring metal hand grabbed gently onto hers.  She slowly looked down and to her right, and saw that the hand belonged to her Commander, reminding her with
non-verbal communication to trust him.

She nodded her head nonchalantly, and slowly returned her gaze forward once again.

Keith released her hand instantly, swinging it back to his side.

The door to the lift swooshed open, revealing the command center of Lotor's cruiser.

As the robot guard moved out of the lift, Keith stepped ahead of Lance and the Princess, taking the lead as they all walked out of the lift, following behind the robot guard.

There were several hundred other robotic guards standing in a large area of the floor, waiting for their commander-in-chief to appear.

Keith, Lance and Allura fell in line toward the back, attempting to not draw attention to themselves. Allura huddled tightly between Lance and Keith for protection.  The three of them stood shoulder to shoulder once again.

Keith couldn't help thinking the thought...


"If we're caught now, its over."



He instead, attempted to clear his head, and stay alert for the next move.

Allura shivered next to him, and he suddenly remembered she could read his thoughts. Darn, this gift!  Its now more of a nuisance than a joy!

The balcony above them set the scene for the Prince of Doom's entrance. He emerged from a nearby door and moved out toward the edge of the balcony.

"Alright! Listen up, you plate-headed robots!
I want Princess Allura located and captured,
along with her renegade companions! I don't
care how badly you rough her companions up,
but I want the Princess unharmed! If I so much
as see a scratch or bruise on her body, I'll
destroy you all!"

Lotor's voice boom loudly over the
enormous crowd of robot guards.
Allura had shut her eyes. Since Lotor
was not able to see past the mask, she
had decided the less she had to look at him,
the better.

Lance and Keith remained absolutely still, and Keith encouraged the Princess with a hand to her back, to do the same.

"The one who brings her to me will be greatly rewarded!" Lotor continued. "Now, I want her found...and I want her found now!"

Once he had finished shouting out commands, Lotor quickly turned and exited the balcony of command center.

The robot guards quickly dispersed, and Keith quickly looked around to see where it was that they were headed.  He motioned with his hand for Lance and Allura to once again follow him.

They tagged on with some other robot guards that were making their way to the lift once again.

The three Voltron pilots quickly made their way with them, ducking into the lift.  A few robots got off at each floor.

Soon, Keith, Lance and Allura were the only one's left.

"Whew...that was close..." Allura sighed with relief.

"It's not over yet," Keith pointed out, feeling the sweat pour down his face and all over his body from beneath the very hot metal shell he was encased in. "We've still got to find the shuttle bays, and steal one of Lotor's shuttles!"

"That shouldn't be hard for you," Lance teased. "Just stick your nose to the ground...you'll smell it out."

"Knock it off, Lance!" Keith reprimanded. "For once in your life, can you just pretend to be serious?"

"What?  Don't like my jokes?" Lance chuckled, until he saw the way Keith was standing, and drew a conclusion that he was getting an angered stare from beneath the metal mask.  He cleared his throat. "Sorry, Keith. I'll behave myself."

"Thanks so much for your cooperation." Keith replied coldly. "Now, if you're finished..."

The door suddenly swooshed open, causing Keith to stop dead in the middle of his sentence.

A robot worker entered onto the lift. He looked at the three guards.  "Good." The robot said upon seeing the three of them. "You three...I need your help.  Come with me!"

"We have orders to..." Keith started to say, but then was immediately cut off.

"I need help reprogramming the shuttle door entrances.  Prince Lotor has ordered all combinations to be changed for security.  You three will assist me." The robot said.

"Yes sir!" Keith said snappily. He cocked his head backward toward Lance and the Princess. Eagerly, the three followed behind the robot worker.

Several corridors later, they arrived at one of the shuttle bays.

The robot worker turned to the Princess first. "Change the combination to Delta 12."

Allura stood there for a moment then forced her legs to move toward the lock.  Keith and Lance were also given a lock assignment.

The robot worker looked back toward Allura, who was just standing in front of the lock, unsure what to do.  The robot walked over toward her, giving her an abrupt shove.

"You idiot!" the robot shouted at her. "You haven't been listening to me, have you? I said to program this to Delta 12!  Now...comply!"

Allura moved forward toward the lock once again.  She pushed a few buttons, hoping to look as if she were doing something useful.  The robot was not buying it.

"What's the matter with you?" the robot shouted at her, drawing the attention of Keith and Lance, who were standing close by. "I said..."

The robot shoved her hard, this time, sending her sprawling out onto the floor.

"...Delta 12!" the robot finished his statement angrily.

That was all it took for Lance.  He quickly moved toward the robot, but suddenly found that Keith had beaten him to it.

With an abrupt shove of his own, Keith sent the robot flying a few feet, and finally coming to a slamming halt on the floor.  The impact with the ground caused the robot worker to short circuit, and finally deactivate.

Keith grabbed for Allura's hand, as he was turning to the door.  Lance was looking from side to side, his blaster drawn.

"Okay, Keith, how do we get in?  We don't have the combination!" Lance asked nervously, watching for any sign of robot guards.

"We don't have time for a combination," Keith said calmly, as he pulled the Princess to one side of him, and raised his blaster to the keypad. "Stand clear!"

"Now you're talking!" Lance cheered as he stepped aside.

Keith aimed his weapon and opened fire on the keypad.  A brilliant blue light came screaming out of the end of Keith's blaster, directly impacting the keypad.  It sizzled for a moment, then exploded, immediately causing the door to slide open.

"Come on!" Keith shouted. "Inside!"

With Princess's hand still in his, he tugged her along behind him, with Lance bringing up the rear once again.  Lance stopped to try to close the door, but Keith shouted to him to forget about it.

The doom shuttles were directly in front of them. Keith, Allura and Lance ran for their lives, knowing that if Lotor caught them now, Keith and Lance would be executed, and Allura, severely punished.

They immediately boarded the closest shuttled.  Lance turned and closed the door, then joined Keith in the front of the cockpit in the co-pilot's seat.

Allura sat in tactical.

The two men quickly looked over the controls, assessing each control's function in order to operate the shuttle. 

Keith activated the engines, hoping they didn't take too much time to warm up.

Lance looked for the command button to open the space portals.

Then the warning sirens sounded.  They had been discovered.

Knowing that it no longer mattered if he should used the COM or not, Keith immediately opened up a signal to the remainder of his team, hovering somewhere on the outside of the Castle Doomout in space.

"Commander Keith to Voltron Force...Pidge, Hunk, Sven...you guys read me?"

Pidge's voice came on immediately. "Loud and clear, Commander!"

Hunk chimed in next. "Thank God you guys are alright!"

"We tought you were captured for sure..." Sven added.

"Is Princess okay?" Hunk asked.

Keith abruptly overtook the conversation. "Guys...I'd love to answer all of your questions.  Yes...we're all safe, including the Princess... at least for the moment.  But we're going to need your help!  I need you to run cover, long enough for us to get out of here!  We're blasting off in a Doom shuttle, and we're about to have lots of company!  So make it fast!"

"On it, Commander!" Pidge shouted.

"On our way!" Sven also shouted.

"Hang on, Keith! We'll get you out of there!" Hunk added.

Keith left his COM opened, and looked to Lance. "Ready?"

Lance shook his head in frustration. "I can't find the controls that open the bay doors!"

Keith grabbed the blaster throttle. "Forget it then!  We'll make our own door!"

"We've got company coming, Keith!" Allura shouted over the sound of the noisy engines as she observed the scanners.  The robots were carting in heavy artillery into the shuttle bay.

"Ready blasters!" Keith shouted back. He pulled back on the engine throttle to move forward. "Hold on!  Here we go!"

The shuttle began to slowly lift off of the flight deck.  Keith intensely concentrated his aim on the bay doors.  When he was sure of the target point, he immediately opened fire on them.

His aim was precise... the metal of the doors gave way to the intense firepower being unleashed from the shuttle.

"Uh-Oh!" Lance shouted as he checked "Company's arriving!"

Keith turned to Allura. "Princess?"

"I have at least twenty or more robot warriors coming into the shuttle bay, Keith!" Allura replied, viewing the tactical scanners. "They're armed with blaster cannons!"

"If one of them hits us..." Lance warned Keith.

"Then let's give them a farewell present they won't soon forget!"  Keith said snidely. "Allura, prepare the rear shields, and activate them on my command."

"Standing by, Keith..." she said, her combat training suddenly surfacing, helping her to forget fear suddenly.

"Ready to fire rear blasters!" Keith shouted.

Lance manned the rear guns. "Rear blasters armed!"

"Say goodbye, Lotor...this one's for the Princess!" Keith thought quietly before giving the command.

"FIRE!" he shouted suddenly.

Lance let loose a volley of blasters right into the center of the mounting robot army.

"Shields up!" Keith commanded.

"Shields up, Commander!" Allura shouted as she raised the shields.

The blasters slammed right into the robots, destroying them nstantly.  But more were pouring in right behind them to take their places, blaster guns and cannons armed and ready to fire.

"Keith!" Allura shouted. "I have more robots coming!"

"Hang on you two!  We're getting out of here!" Keith shouted in reply, navigating the Doom shuttle through the hole that was created moments ago.

Blasts of gunfire began to hit the shields, draining them. "Keith... I have a 30 percent energy drain on the rear shields!" Allura alerted him.

The shuttle zoomed out of the docking bay, and headed toward the Doom shield.  The shields were up and in place, where as before, they were not.

A message came in over the COM...

"Commander Keith!  You can not escape!  Surrender Princess Allura to me now, and I'll make sure you die quickly!" Lotor's booming voice threatened.

Keith only laughed. "You must think I'm some sort of idiot, Lotor!"

"You are, if you think you can escape me!" Lotor bellowed back.

Lance chimed in. "Well just watch us...Big, blue and Ugly!"

An audible grunt was suddenly heard through the COM. "You will pay for that, human!  I shall have Allura!  And neither you, nor anyone else will stop me!  In case you haven't figured it out, my Doom shields are up!  You'll never escape from me now!"

"Want to bet on that, Lotor?" Pidge said over the COM from Green Lion.



Green Lion's mouth opened wide, sending out a pulse ray that slammed right into the Doom shield. "Take that...plate-face!"

Inside the shuttle, Lance began applauding. "Way to go, squirt!"

The shield buckled, then shorted out. Pidge began shouted through the COM. "Hurry! The effect won't last for long!"

"Read ya!" Keith shouted, as he accelerated the shuttle toward the dampened field.




As they passed through it, Lotor began pounding his fist into this command console. "Launch Robeast!" he shouted angrily. "I WILL NOT LOSE THE PRINCESS!"

From the deep within Castle Doom, came a fierce, robot creature that had one horn on the top of its head, and spikes along its body.  The Robeast reached its hand behind and grabbed a handful of spikes.  It then began to toss them one by one toward the shuttle.




"Keith!" Allura shouted. "Spikes!  Behind us!"

"Our shields won't hold!" Lance reported. "They're too weak to withstand the pressure!"

"Look out!" Allura shouted as the spikes closed in on the shuttle.

"I see them!" he shouted, preparing himself for evasive maneuvers.

"I've got them, Keith!"
Hunk shouted, as Yellow Lion
swung around to met them.
"Fire plasma cannon!"

On the top of Yellow Lion's
back materialized a huge cannon, which
immediately fired plasma energy
from it, disintegrating the spikes on
contact.

As the group in the shuttle grew closer to Red and Black Lions, hovering patiently out in space, Keith turned to his crew. "Time to abandon our craft, guys!"

The three of them quickly
shed their robot armor.
Underneath it all was their
flight suits. Allura and Lance
placed on their Lion
helmets over their heads,
and activated their breathing
apparatuses.

Keith did likewise, and then blew open the shuttle doors.  The icy cold of space came plummeting in on them, and the zero G's took over, causing weightlessness.

The three began doing swimming strokes in order to reach the entranceway.

Keith hung out behind and spoke through the COM in his helmet. "Lance, see to it that the Princess is safe!"

"Right!" Lance replied before looking at Allura. "Come on, Princess!"

"But Keith," Allura turned. "You're coming with us, aren't you?"

"In a minute.  I have a little surprise for that Robeast out there." Keith replied. "I'm going to ignite this baby into one big fireball by setting the controls to auto-destruct.  You two keep going for Red Lion!"

"No, Keith!" Allura protested. "We're staying with you!"

"I'm giving you an order!  I expect you to follow it!" Keith shouted back at her. "Do what I say, Allura!  I'll be right there!"

"I didn't give myself up to Lotor so that you can kill yourself now!"  she shouted angrily, wrenching herself free from Lance's grasp of her arm.

"I have no intention of killing myself" he said calmly. "I have every intention of making it back to Black Lion in one piece.  Now get going."

"No!" Allura began again. "I won't leave you here alone!"

"Princess, I said GO!" Keith said with sudden anger in his voice. "I've no time to debate this with you!"  He then turned to his best friend. "Lance, get her out of her...now!"

"Aye-Aye, chief!" Lance saluted, grabbing the Princess once again and dragging her to the exit.

Allura's eyes began to glaze over with moisture as she reluctantly allowed the Red Lion pilot to take her away from Keith.

Keith turned his head downward, silently reprimanding himself for making her cry.  But it couldn't be helped.  She had to go.  It was far too dangerous to allow her to stay.

He floated back over toward the shuttle's command console and activated the self-destruct mechanism.  Then he began to carefully steer the shuttle over toward the Robeast.

"This is for Allura and Planet Arus..." he said quietly, his teeth clenched together in anger. "And for Gem and her people as well!"



Meanwhile, Lance and Allura had reached the Red Lion, and quickly jetted inside of the cockpit entrance on top of Red Lion's head.  Once the compartment was pressurized, Lance quickly ran over to the pilot's chair, practically jumping into it.

Allura had leaned herself over top of the chair, scanning the main monitor for any sign of Keith.

"Where is he? She shouted anxiously.

Lance used Red Lion's scanners,
sweeping the area for him.
"He's not out there yet, Princess.
He's probably still inside the shuttle."

"Lance!" she shouted.
"We have to go after him!"

"He gave us the order to back off!"
Lance replied. "He said to trust
him...so do it!"

Allura bit nervously on her lower lip,
watching the monitor carefully for a visual of Keith.

Lance watched too, very carefully, his hands on the throttles.



The Robeast had seen the shuttle accelerating toward it. 
It made a turn to meet it...bent on destroying it.





Keith worked the distance out in his mind...hoping he knew when to hit the destruct button. Then, he saw the creature turn and come toward him.

Realizing that he failed to factor that eventuality in, Keith quickly surmised that now was the time to get the heck out of there.  He pushed the button, and left the shuttle's controls on automatic, taking it closer to the Robeast.

The Robeast angrily roared, and let out a volley of fire toward the approaching shuttle

He jetted toward the shuttle exit, but a sudden jar slammed him up against the wall, knocking the wind out of him.  Trying his best, he resumed jetting toward the door, desperately trying to take in a breath.

As he reached the door, his mind told him he had only ten seconds to get safely out of the way. He looked behind him as he jetted out... the jar he felt was the Robeast firing on the shuttle. And the jar that caused him to slam into the wall had cost him precious seconds that he needed to get a safe distance away from the soon-coming explosion.

"Allura..." he said into the COM speaker in his helmet.

"I'm here Keith!" Allura shouted back in his ear.

"I'm sorry, Princess...but...I'm not going to make it..." he paused.

"Oh yes you are!" she shouted back.

Keith suddenly saw Red Lion swoop in behind him. "Lance!" he shouted.

"Grab on to my kitty-cat's claws!  Hurry!" Lance shouted through the COM.

Keith did just that, and held on for his life, as Red Lion accelerated safely out of the way.
The Robeast reached out and grabbed the shuttle in its hands, attempting to crush it.

"Pull back, Voltron Force!" Lance shouted over the COM.

Blue, Green and Yellow Lions moved safely away from the area...

Lance began the countdown. "5...4...3...2...1...Zero!"

The shuttle exploded as the
Robeast held it in its hands.
The explosion caused a chain
reaction, and the Robeast violently
exploded as well.

Lotor's evil monster was destroyed without even forming Voltron.

Lance returned Keith to Black Lion.  Once he was safely inside, Keith opened the COM to his team.

"Nice job, everyone!" he praised.
"Now, let's get back to Arus. 
We've got a long journey ahead."

Inside Red Lion, tears of joy streamed
down Allura's face, as she
turned to take her seat in the
companion chair behind Lance.

She sighed allowed as she spoke to Lance.
"So, what made you change
your mind and go in after him?"

Lance paused for a moment. "I don't know."

"I thought you told me I should
leave him alone and trust him." she
said.

"Yeah, I did." Lance replied.

"So then, why didn't you trust him?" she asked him.

Lance chuckled. "I don't trust anyone!" he replied.

Allura smiled from behind him.
"Oh, I see!" she chuckled. "So, what
you're saying is that you didn't trust
that Keith knew what he was doing, is that it?"

"Oh, I knew Keith knew what he was doing,
but I didn't know how the Robeast would react.
So, I went in after him."

"Good move," Allura acknowledged. "It saved his life."

Lance pondered the words and then chuckled too. "I owed him one..at least one, anyway."

"More then one," she added. "We all owe him one a dozen times over."

Lance nodded his head in response, and let it go at that.

The lions fell into a triangle formation, homeward bound.




From the command center on Castle DoomLotor snarled angrily as he finished watching the destruction of his Robeast.  He bared his teeth as he then watched the robot lions cruise across the skyheading out of sight.

"One day, Allura," Lotor seethed. "One day, you'll have no one to protect you!  And on that day, my dear Princess of Arus...you will be mine!"

Lotor turned and left the command center balcony, slamming his metal fist into the wall next to the door...leaving a dent behind.
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