"Obligation."

Story by Adele
Story Copyright 2003
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!

**Warning:  Rated PG-15... for violence. **



Chapter 16
A 'Doom'ing Demand

The Voltron Force returned to the Palace after searching the entire area for Black Lion. There was absolutely no trace of it anywhere.  It simply had disappeared.

As the lions landed on the Palace grounds, the four pilots solemnly gathered in the courtyard. All of their faces reflected the same expressions of fear and dread.

The obvious surely had happened...

Lotor had captured Black Lion.

"How could there be no trace of Keith and the Black Lion?" Lance blasted. "Pidge, are you sure your sensors picked up nothing on the beacon?"

"I'm sure, Lance!" Pidge replied assuredly. "I checked everything!  The beacon... the algorithms... nothing.  It's just gone!"

"It can't be just gone, Pidge!" Lance shouted back.  "There has to be some trail we can pick up on!"

"Believe me, Lance.  If there was, I'd have found it!" Pidge barked back.

"Maybe he forgot to activate the beacon," Hunk added.  "Or...maybe he didn't have enough time to activate it."

Pidge started scratching his head thoughtfully.  "That doesn't make sense, Hunk.  Keith was always real meticulous about following procedure.  Why wouldn't he have activated the lion beacon?  He'd have found a way to do it...I know he would have!"

"Well, maybe he did after all.  But maybe his ship was destroyed... uh...I mean..." Hunk paused, hating to even think of finishing the last part of his thought.

"You mean...Keith's dead?" Pidge said.  "I don't think so, Hunk.  There'd be some sort of debris field.  The Black Lion was captured... in tact.  And I'm sure we all know by whom!"

"Lotor..." Sven muttered.  He looked up at them.  "We've got to tell da Princess.  She must know what's become of Keit."

"But we don't know that he's been captured for sure!" Hunk shouted.

"We've got to tell her something, Hunk!" Lance barked, as his eyes suddenly turned downward.  "She's gonna want to know, anyway."

"I just don't think it's a wise idea to tell her something we can't confirm." Hunk added quietly.

"Hunk, there's no other explanation.  It has to be Lotor." Pidge said somberly.  "And if it is..."

"I'd hate to think what Keith's going through right now..." Lance mumbled.


A collective sigh was suddenly heard.

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


"AHHHH!"

Lotor and Hagar were standing in the hallway of the nearby cell where Keith was being interrogated.

Keith had been hoisted off of the ground, his feet dangling above the floor.  His arms were above his head, as he hung from the ceiling by ropes.  A Doom solider was present in the cell, holding an ionized prod that was fully charged.

At each command, the Doom solider shoved the prod hard into Keith's side.

The Voltron Commander hung like a piece of meat on hook, agonizing from each touch of the prod.  His uniform shirt had been removed to expose his upper body skin.  The ionized prod was a more effective method of torture when applied to bare flesh.

Lotor nodded his head, once again, to the Doom guard, who in turn abruptly jammed the prod into Keith side.  He screamed again in agony....

"AHHHHHHH!"

Lotor laughed.  "My, my, Keith.  You scream so well!  What would Allura think of you now, if she could see her big strong hero, reduced to a frail little weakling?"

Keith grunted angrily at the evil Prince...  "Why...why don't you...come up here and...see what it feels like?"

Lotor let out a laugh.  "No... I believe I will remain exactly where I am!"

He nodded to the Doom solider once again, and once again, the Voltron Commander let out another horrifying scream, as the prod jolted his side.

Breathing heavily from the pain wracking through his whole body, Keith managed to look up at Lotor, his eyes burning with hatred for the wicked Prince. 

"Why don't you just...kill me...Lotor!" he shouted angrily.  "That is what you're eventually planning on doing with me...isn't it?"

"No, not yet," Lotor snickered.  "Remember, my brave Commander, I need you alive right now, to bring Allura here to me!  Once she's in my grasp, I'll have no further use for you. Then...you die!" Then Lotor walked forward until he was standing right in front of Keith.  "But for right now..."

Then he nodded to the Doom guard once again, who immediately hit Keith with another charge of ionized energy. Keith screamed again... the pain so intense.

"...I can at least make you long for death, Keith!  That way, when it finally happens, you will bless my name for sending you on your way." Lotor said with a sinister smile.

Keith once again regained composure.  He locked gazes with Lotor.  "The only thing I'll want to do...is...kill you for...hurting Allura!  Do what you want with me; torture me... kill me if you want... but just leave her alone!"

"Oh, such bravery.  But let me remind you who's giving the orders around here!" Lotor shouted angrily as he nodded to the guard for another hit.

"AHHHHHH!!!"

Keith suddenly slumped over.  After enduring nearly an hour of the ionized prod, he finally could take no more, and fell into unconsciousness.

Lotor commanded another blast, and when he saw it no longer had any effect on his prisoner, he ordered the torture to cease.

"Bring him down!" he shouted.

As the Doom guard released the rope, allowing Keith's unconscious body to fall abruptly to the ground, Lotor turned to Hagar.  "I think it's time to signal Princess Allura.  I want her to see that her big strong hero has turned to... a useless pile of jelly!  Then, I'll make my demand!"

Hagar nodded.  "I'll open a portal from the dream dimension, returning the ship to normal space."

"Good." Lotor smiled. Then he turned to the guard.  "When he awakes ...summon me!"

"Yes Sire." said the mechanized Doom guard.

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


Back on Surbain, the boys were breaking the news of Keith's disappearance to Allura.  They had all gathered in her chambers, sitting around her, as she sat quietly in a comfortable chair.

Allura's face was distraught in anguish.

"I...I somehow felt it," she said somberly.
"I knew he was gone."

"How, Princess?" Pidge asked quietly.

Allura bowed her head slightly.
"My...my heart felt a sudden...
emptiness, Pidge."

"Don't worry, Princess," Lance said, gently covering her hand with his.  "Somehow Keith will show up again.  He's a pretty smart guy, you know."

"But how can he stand alone against such a wicked adversary." Allura sighed.  "Lotor can be so cruel."

"Yeah, we all know he hates Keith to no end." Hunk said.  "No telling what sort of punishment he's being subjected to right now."

Allura looked up in horror at Hunk; an anguished gasp had escaped her lips, and her eyes began to fill with tears.

"Nice job, Hunk!" Pidge whispered angrily into Hunk's ear.  "Did you have to go and say that?"

"Sorry... guess I didn't think." Hunk leaned over to Pidge, whispering back to him.

Allura was shaking her head in unbelief. "Poor Keith," she tearfully sighed.  "There has to be something we can do to help him."

Sven added his sigh with hers.  "I'm afraid we
can't do anyting, Princess." Sven said.
"We have to wait for Lotor to make his next
move."

"But... what if he doesn't?" Allura whimpered.

"He will, Princess. Lotor wants you, not Keit." Sven said.



"And he may kill him to get you." The thought rang out in Sven's mind.



Suddenly, a beep could be heard in the room.  Pidge rose to his feet immediately, and checked his scanner.  It was the beacon from Black Lion.

"Hey you guys!" Pidge cried out loud.  "Keith's beacon!  I'm picking it up!"

The entire group rose to their feet now, with all eyes on Pidge.  "And according to the readings I'm getting, " Pidge announced,  "Black Lion is close by and approaching the Palace!"

"Keith!" Allura shouted joyfully. "He got away!  He's alright!"

"Maybe not, Princess." Pidge added with a note of caution to his voice.  "If Black Lion is captured and in tow by Lotor's cruise ship, it would give off the same readings."

"So, that means that Lotor might still have Black Lion as his prisoner!" Hunk said.

"...and is on his way here right now!" Lance also said.

"...with Keit as his prisoner, too." Sven replied. "Or worse."

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


Three hours had passed after the meeting in Allura's chambers.  Allura spent the time walking mindlessly through the Palace gardens once again.

Her thoughts were resting on Keith... as they had been for several hours, ever since the news of his disappearance.  She had been trying to contact him by telepathy...but there was no response to her repeated pleas for his answer.

She sighed as she took a seat on a shaded bench near the middle of the garden.  The sun was very hot... almost unbearable.  Even with the protective clothing she had on, it still was almost overwhelming.

Yet, she couldn't concentrate on that now.

It was then that her mind found its way to thoughts of her father...

Allura once again recalled the story she had heard him tell her when she was a small child. She remembered the book she bought for Keith as a present... about that very story.  She sighed again as she continued to recall what her heart had felt the moment Keith had told her he loved her.

And now... he was gone.
And quite possibly...gone forever.

She bowed her head low; her hands gripping onto the bench seat... so tightly that she thought she might lose feeling in her hands.  The she looked up toward the skies of Surbain.

"Oh, Keith," she thought sadly.  "If only I knew you were alright."

````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````

"Allura, our love will see us through this. No matter what goes on today, remember that I love you, and that you love me. And as long as our love exists, there's nothing that can hurt us... even if things appear to be dark and hopeless."

````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````


She remembered the words Keith said to her while they were in the Castle gardens on Arus.

"No matter what... even if things appear to be dark and hopeless..." she repeated Keith's words in her mind.

"Allura!"

She quickly turned around to see Pidge running up toward her.  She stood to her feet to face him. "What is it, Pidge?" she asked.

Out of breath, Pidge came up along side of her.  "Princess... there's a...message for you... from... Lotor."

"Lotor!" she shouted.  "Did he mention Keith?"

"No... he's... not going... to talk to...anyone but you and ...King Augusta." Pidge huffed and puffed.  "He has...a proposal...some sort of offer..."

"It has to be an offer for me in exchange for Keith!" she said quickly. "Where's Augusta?"

He's in the ready room with Lance, Sven and Hunk.  They sent me to find you." Pidge said. "Hurry up!  The sooner we get there, the sooner we find out what happened to Keith and the Black Lion!"

Allura picked up her gown and began to jog to the Palace.

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

Lotor appeared on the screen;
Hagar was standing to his immediate
right.

He smiled as he saw Allura.
"Ah!  Princess Allura... how nice to see
you again."

"Get to the point, you creep!"
Lance shouted. "Where's Keith and the
Black Lion?"

"Yeah, we know you have them both!"
Hunk also shouted.


"Patience, my fine young space explorers!" Lotor said, holding up his good arm in front of him. "First thing's first. King Augusta... are you ready to surrender Princess Allura to me?"

"She  is Queen Allura of Surbain!  And you will address her as such!" King Augusta shouted back. "And I demand to know what you have done with the Voltron Commander!"

"You DEMAND to know, do you?  Very well," Lotor said flatly. "Let me show you what I've... done with him!"

The screen blinked, and for a moment, there was nothing but black.  Suddenly, the screen came alive again...and everyone gasped at the sight of what they saw.

Keith was chained up, his face to the wall, and his back exposed to the torturous lashings of a laser whip. The audio was on, and the sound of Keith's cries of agony could be heard with each lash of the whip against his bare back.

His head flung back as the lash connected time and time again, sending searing pain through his whole body.

Then, the lashing ceased, as everyone in the Palace on Surbain could hear Lotor's voice, commanding a halt to the horrible beating.

Keith apparently could hear it too, as his head turned in response to the sound.

"You see, your Commander is being treated with all the respect he is due." Lotor said. "I must say, he does have a high tolerance for pain.  He hasn't crumpled into nothingness... yet! But I assure you, that will change!"

"NO!" Allura screamed in
horror. "LOTOR! STOP
THIS AT ONCE!"

"My dear Princess, you are
the only one who can stop it!"
Lotor said suggestively.
"You know what my conditions are."

Keith heard Lotor's words to Allura.
Through his pain, he mustered up
all of his strength to speak.

"Allura!" he began... his voice unsteady.  "Listen... to me!  If you can hear me, remember what we promised each other... back on Arus!  No matter what happens, don't give up!"

The Doom guard let loose another lashing and Keith cried out in anguish, as the pain seared through him once again.

Tears began to form in his eyes, both from physical and emotional torment.

"Allura, listen to me," he spoke up again.  "You know that Lotor won't let me go... even if you gave yourself up to him!  Don't do it, Princess!  I'm begging you, don't give up!"

Another lash struck his back, and he flung his head forward as he cried out again,

"AHHHHH!" Keith cried out again.

"NO!" Allura screamed. "KEITH!"

Everyone was stunned at the sight of
their Commander and friend at the
mercy of the Prince of Doom. Lance
couldn't watch.  He just turned his head,
tears streaming down his face.

Allura covered her ears, trying to protect her mind from the haunting sound of Keith's outcries.

"Allura!" Keith shouted, his voice firm with conviction.  "Remember that I love you!  Don't give yourself up to him!  That's an order!"

The screen went black momentarily, and soon, Lotor's image filled the screen once again. "You see, you really have no choice, Allura.  Are you just going to let him perish that way... do you want me to torture him until he dies?  Is that how you want it to end for your brave Black Lion Knight?"

"Lotor!  I swear that if I ever get my
hands on you, I'll kill you
myself!" Hunk shouted, his
fists clenched.

Lotor sneered at Hunk
momentarily, then returned
his attention to Allura.
"Well, what say you, dear
Princess? You alone, hold Keith's
life and death in your hands.
If you come with me, I'll spare him
the torturous end I have planned
for him.  If you don't, then I'll
continue to abuse him!  And my next method will be bore worms!  They love human flesh...so soft and satisfying. They'll eat him alive, Allura!  Shall I proceed with them?"

"NO!" Allura screamed, tears
streaming down her cheeks.
Sven and Hunk quickly came
along side of her, holding her up.
"I HATE YOU... YOU
MONSTER!" she cried.

"But, you can bless me for putting Keith away quickly...painlessly." Lotor replied.

Sven finally spoke up.  "So, you really have no intention of allowing Keit to return to uz."

"Of course I do..." Lotor smiled.  "...In a wooden box!  The question is, how much of him you want back!"

"You disgust me!" Allura whimpered hatefully.

"Thank you, Princess Allura.  I take that as a compliment." Lotor said with a smile.  "Now, as for you, King Augusta.  I want you to immediately arrange for an annulment of your marriage to the Princess!"

"This is insane!" King Augusta shouted.  "I will not disgrace my family!"

"You'd better!  Or you'll have no family home!  I'll destroy Surbain with my Doom armada! And without Voltron to protect you, the task will be easy!  Besides, the only reason you married the Princess was to protect your miserable planet by using Voltron!  Now, that luxury has been effectively illuminated with the capture of Black Lion!"

"But..." King Augusta whined.

"Do it now, or I'll destroy Surbain within the hour!" Lotor shouted.  "And when you have done so, turn the Princess over to me!"

"She's not going anywhere!" Lance shouted defensively.

"Why Lance, have you forgotten about your best friend?  Have you forgotten how he's suffering... even as we speak?  Well, perhaps a reminder will refresh your memory!"

The screen blinked, and Keith was once again on the view screen, screaming horribly, as now two Doom guards took turns... one with a laser whip, and one with an ionized prod... each administering torturous blows to the weakening Voltron Commander.

Lance bowed his head, turning to Sven.

"What do we do now?" Lance said distressfully.  "We can't leave him like that!"

Allura suddenly spoke up. "I have no intention of that happening.  I'm giving myself over to Lotor!"

"NO!" everyone cried.

"I must... " she said, her voice now thick with tears.

"But, Princess..." Pidge reminded.  "You heard what Keith said!"

"Lotor's going to kill Keith anyway!" Lance shouted, now turning and grabbing on to her arms. "You know that, don't you?"

"Of course, I realize that!  But at least he can go peacefully." She sighed tearfully.  "I can't just stand here and let him die like this! I can't!  Don't any of you understand that?"

She then turned to Lotor on the screen.  "Will you allow me to spend some time with him?"

"Of course, my Princess.  You can spend time comforting him before I send him into eternity. But... at least that way, he will go peacefully." Lotor said.

"Stop the torture, then, and...and I'll do what you request of me." She said bravely.

Lotor smiled. "I will cease any further torture for one hour.  You are to be on my ship by then, or the bore worms will be next!"

"I'll be there!" she replied.  "Just... don't hurt him anymore!"

"You have one hour, Princess." Lotor said.  The screen then blacked out.

Allura turned to King Augusta.  "You must release me from my vow of marriage to you!"

Augusta just stood where he was, staring at her. "Allura," he said quietly.  "You realize that once Lotor possess you, you'll never see home again.  You will be his slave for all of your life. Are you sure you are ready for that?"

Allura fought back the tears.  "I must be ready for that.  My best friend is depending on me! Even if his fate seems written in stone, I must trust that somehow, it will all work out all right. But you must release me from my vow!"

Augusta bowed his head. "Very well."



Twenty minutes after Lotor's demands were heard, Augusta's marriage to Allura was dissolved, and declared null and void before the High Priest of Surbain.

Allura was returned to the title of Princess of Arus once more.

A bittersweet pronouncement for the weeping Princess...now about to become the bride of Doom.

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

Allura sat quietly in her chambers, gathering her things together, preparing to be transported to Lotor's ship.

"Hold on, Keith." Allura tearfully pleaded in silence.  "I'll be with you soon."

"Allura..."

She looked up suddenly, recognizing the
voice of her father. "Father!  Oh, Father! 
Where have you been?" she scolded.

"My child... Queen Ariela and I have
been here with you all of the time."
Alfor said, his image now appearing
before his daughter.

"Father!  Keith has been captured, and Lotor is going to kill him!" Allura said, reduced to tears once again.  "What am I to do now?"

"Allura, you must be brave.  Trust in your love for each other."

"Father, how can I live without him? He's my life!"

"Trust in your love for each other, my daughter."

"Father, I'm afraid." Allura said quietly.

"Allura..."

The Princess looked up again, and beside her father was Queen Ariela.  "Oh, Queen Ariela, I don't understand!  Isn't there something I can do to save Keith?  Please, Queen Ariela!"

"Allura do not worry child.  Just be strong.  Keith will need your strength now." Queen Ariela said.

Allura took her hands and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I will, Queen Ariela."

"Allura, remember... be strong in your love for each other.  Draw from that strength." King Alfor said. "Farewell, my daughter."

King Alfor and Queen Ariela disappeared.

"Farewell...Father." Allura said sadly.

A quiet knock came to the door. Allura wiped the tears from her eyes. 

"Come on, Allura! Get it together here!" she scolded herself as she answered the door.

The door swished open, revealing Sven standing on the other side.

"Sven," Allura said.  "Please come in."

"Tank you, Princess." Sven said graciously as he entered the room.  "I came to check on you and make sure you were okay."

Allura smiled. "Thank you, Sven.  I'll be fine."

"You know, dare was a time, when I was serving you as the pilot of Blue Lion...before I got injured, when you would confide in me." Sven said to her.  "You know, I'm still here...if you need to talk dis ting out to someone who will understand."

"Thank you, Sven," Allura replied, returning to gather her things.  "But my mind is made up. I must do this."

Sven's eyebrows knitted together.
"Are you sure you know what you are
doing, Princess?" he asked in a
concerned tone. "Once you get on
board Lotor's ship, we'll have no
way to get you off. You'll be
trapped dere forever, alone."

Allura glanced upward. "I won't be
alone, Sven." She reassured
herself, recalling her encounter
with her father and Queen Ariela
moments before Sven's arrival.




Sven was deeply moved by her bravery. In many ways, she reminded him of his beloved Romelle, who was waiting for him back on Arus.  Even down to the resemblance...she was the essence of what Romelle was.

For this reason, Sven felt a sense of duty to protect her... especially in the absence of his friend, Keith.

Sven sighed. "Well den, we'd better go.  Lotor iz waiting for you."

Allura looked over the items she was taking with her.  She was almost ready to go, but at the last moment, she set them all down on the bed once again.

"I won't be taking these with me." Allura pondered aloud for Sven to hear.

"Why not?" Sven asked, puzzled by her sudden change of heart.  "Aren't you taking anyting with you?"

"Call it... a step of faith, if you will.  But I feel I'll be back. Somehow, I'll make it back." Allura said, echoing a tone of confidence suddenly.  "And I'll have Keith with me when I return...and he'll be alive, Sven."

"Princess, how can you take on da whole Doom fleet by yourself?  It's not possible!" Sven said firmly.  "Da best ting you can do for Keit iz do what he asked you... don't turn yourself over to that fiend!"

"Sven, if only you could understand and know what I know..." she thought. "Sven, I'll be fine. Trust me."

Sven didn't say another word to her. He extended his elbow to her, and she took it politely. Together, they exited the chamber room, and headed toward the palace entrance where everyone would be waiting.
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