"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  haracters are the copyright of Adele.   Please do not use them without asking for permission.  Thank you.

Enjoy!


Chapter 29
Arus in Danger!


King Augusta was waiting to greet the five heroes of Voltron, as they triumphantly returned to Surbain.

Voltron had landed in the courtyard of the Palace.  As each of the pilots, along with Princess Allura, got out of their lion cockpits and met on the ground, they congratulated each other for a job well done.

Keith helped the Princess out of the Black Lion, and onto the lift that would lower them to the ground.

Lance, Pidge and Hunk were already mumbling amongst themselves as they watched their Princess and their Commander standing relatively close together as the lift brought them closer to the ground.

The moved over to Sven, who was nothing but smiles.

Lance began to interrogate their Scandinavian friend. "Okay Sven...spill it!" he said with a crooked smile.

Sven looked puzzled for a moment.  "Spill what, Lance?" he questioned.

"You know very well, 'what', Sven.  Now tell us!" Lance said again.

"Yeah, out with it!" Pidge echoed the request for information.  "Keith's been nothing but protective of her since this whole thing began.  And back on Arus, I think I had interrupted some deep conversation that there were having, just before I came to find them for the banquet."

"Keit is ALWAYS protective of da Princess," Sven commented with a smirk on his face. "Why should now be any different?"

"Because...its more than just 'protection'!" Lance blurted out. "It borders, 'obsession' now! Come on, Sven!  You know what's going on between them!"

"Yeah," Hunk said, elbowing Sven teasingly in the ribs. "Tell us, are we getting a King?"

Sven smiled innocently.  "Why don't you ask dem?" he said, diverting the question to the party it should be going to.

Lance waved his hand.  "Aw, because Keith hates it when we pry into his personal life.  You know that, Sven!"

"Besides, it's much easier to ask you!" Pidge winked.

"I'm sorry, but I'm fresh out of information today." Sven said, closing his eyes and continuing to hold the awkward smile on his lips in place.

As they reached the ground, Keith and Allura gave each other smirks as they watched Sven being swamped by what appeared to be questions from the rest of the team.

"Well, looks like the team knows something's up between us." Keith said, nonchalantly as he removed his helmet.

"Do you suppose we ought to tell them?" Allura asked, looking up at her Commander.

Keith thought for a moment.  Then, a mischievous smile came over his face. "Nah." He said with a shake of his head.  "Let's let them wonder for a while longer."

"You are so cruel!" Allura said, stifling a giggle in her hand.

"Hey...I'm the Commander!  I already have a reputation with these guys of being cruel... especially during Lion practice." Keith said, scratching his head in amusement... "They think I'm inhuman."

"I used to think that too." Allura confessed.  "Especially when it came to your treatment of me.  I thought your only mission was to work me so hard, that I would quit the Voltron Force. Then you'd be free to bring in another space explorer from the Alliance."

"Nothing could be further from the truth, Allura." Keith turned to her; his face grimaced from begin misunderstood.  "You were untrained, and unfamiliar with combat.  As the Princess of Arus, your safety was of number one importance.  Since you had it in your mind that you were going to fly come hell or high water, I had to make sure you were ready for the hardships of battle."

"Yes, but you nearly killed me sometimes," Allura commented. "You, at times, made my life miserable!"

"I did it because I knew you were a capable pilot, and I wanted to bring out your full potential." Keith explained.  "Princess, I'm sorry if I came down on you too hard, too often. But it was for your own good.  And if I had to do it all over again, I would.  Look at how you've matured as a combat pilot, Allura?"

"Yes, I suppose you're right," Allura sighed.  "But I now see why the rest of the team calls you 'Captain Bligh.' out looking for your whale."

"Captain Bligh?!?...and... a whale???  Uh...I think you've got your...uh...wait a minute!" Keith said distressfully.  "How do you know about Captain Bligh?"

The Princess shrugged her shoulders and smiled.  "Lance told me in passing one day.  I heard the team talking about it one day after a grueling Lion practice.  I heard Lance make the comment, and Hunk and Pidge adding comments in agreement.  I asked Lance what it meant, and he told me." Allura said, then elbowed Keith a bit in the side.  "You must admit, Keith. Based on what Lance tells me of this character, the description fits you perfectly!"

Keith only snorted at the comment. "Captain Bligh...I'll give them Captain Bligh...just wait until we get back to Arus!  I'll give them a lion drill that will really drum home the meaning of that title!" he thought angrily, insulted by the comment.

As they reached the ground, Allura gasped suddenly. "Oh...my Lion claw!"

Keith looked at her awkwardly.  "What about it?" he asked.

"I left in up in Black Lion's cockpit!" she exclaimed.  "I must go back for it!"

"Why?" Keith questioned.  "It'll be safe up there.  Besides, you'll be riding back with me to Arus."

"No Keith!  I have to get it now!" she stressed.

Keith paused and looked at her.  "What's the rush?"

"I just...feel I need it, that's all." Allura proclaimed.  Then she looked, seeing King Augusta and a group of his royal attendants arrive to greet them.  "You go and meet with Augusta, and I'll go back to get my claw."

"Allura, I still don't understand," Keith further questioned.  "Why do you have to get it now?"

"I just have to...that's all!" Allura insisted.  "Please, Keith!  I won't be long!"

Keith let out a big sigh, then gave in.  "All right, Princess.  Go back up for your claw.  I'll keep our royal entourage busy.  But hurry.  The sun's up now, and it'll get start getting pretty hot soon.  I don't want you out here very long, unprotected.  We'll rest up in the Palace before beginning the journey back to Arus."

"Thank you, Keith!" Allura smiled.

Keith stepped off of the lift, leaving Allura on it.  He pushed the ground button and sent it back up toward the cockpit.  After watching her ascend back up toward the top, he turned to greet the approaching King Augusta.

"Commander!" Augusta said happily.  "On behalf of Planet Surbain, I want to thank you for saving our world from the ruthless Prince Lotor!"

Keith bowed reverently before the King. "It was our duty and our pleasure to serve you, Your Highness."

The young king smiled.  "I do hope you will stay around a bit longer to enjoy a lunchtime banquet that is being planned in your honor."

"I thank you for your kindness, Your Highness.  But Princess Allura is anxious to return to Planet Arus, and although the banquet sounds wonderful, we must decline." Keith said diplomatically, as he placed his helmet back onto his head.

A short distance away, in earshot of the conversation between the king and their Commander, Hunk snorted...obviously unset at Keith's decision to turn down a lunch feast.

"Nice job, Keith..." Hunk huffed, kicking
the dirt around with his feet.  "We go through
all of this mucky-muck to save their worthless
planet, and when they try to reward us with a
feast, our illustrious leader turns them down!"

"Relax, Hunk!" Pidge said, offering a solution.
"Think about this...when we return to Arus,
Coran will no doubt put on a victory feast
celebrating our safe return home!"

Hunk's eyes suddenly opened wide with excitement. "Hey...that's right!" he said, rolling his eyes in anticipation.  "And there'll be lots of food there, you think?"

"I'm sure..." Pidge said, a bit of a chuckle in his voice.

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

Allura had reached the top, and climbed back into Black Lion's cockpit.  She walked over to the passenger seat, and grabbed her Lionclaw.  As she started to walk toward the lift once again, the claw lit up suddenly, catching her attention.

"Lion claw, what is it?" she asked curiously, staring at the bright light that was forming around it.  "What are you trying to tell me?"

Allura knelt down inside of Black Lion's cockpit, and held the claw out in front of her, concentrating on the image the claw was trying to send. Suddenly, she gasped.

"Oh no!"

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

On the ground, Keith was glancing back up toward the cockpit of Voltron's head, looking for the Princess.  The sun was starting to get hot, and he was worried for the team's safety.

"Well, perhaps we should move inside of the Palace." King Augusta suggested.

"Of course," Keith bowed.  "You go ahead.  I'll wait here for the Princess..."


"KEITH!"


He quickly turned his head. It was Allura's voice, shouting at him.  Suddenly, he saw her appear from the cockpit.  She had put on a jetpack, and was flying to the ground.  Sven, Lance, Hunk and Pidge had suddenly gathered around Keith.

"What's going on?" Sven asked, running up to Keith.

"I don't know, Sven," Keith said, full of curiosity.  "Must be big, she's flying down here in a hurry."

Allura zoomed up to Keith and the others, landing abruptly on the ground.  "Keith!  Arus is in danger!  Lotor is heading to Arus!"

"What?" Keith shouted.  "How do you know?"

"I caught a glimpse of it in my Lion claw!" she said as she knelt to the ground.  "Watch and concentrate.  You'll see the image I saw!"

The Force closed their eyes, focusing in on the Lion claw's message to the Princess.  Suddenly, a clouded image appeared in each of their minds.  The image showed the Fleet of Doom coming out of hyper-space...right in front of Planet Arus.  The image faded.

Allura suddenly dropped to her knees, emotionally drained suddenly.  Keith and Lance quickly huddled over her.

Keith took her into his arms, and she immediately crumpled, fainting under the stress.

"Get her inside!" Lance cried, reaching down to help Keith up with Allura in his arms.  But a few moments later, she regained consciousness, and immediately began to panic.

"Keith!  Arus is in danger!  Without Voltron, Arus is at the mercy of Lotor!" Allura said, near hysteria.

"Calm down, Allura!" Keith said compassionately. "We'll save Arus!  Don't worry!"

Sven came forward suddenly. "Romelle!  She's still on Arus!  I told her to remain dere until I returned!"

"Wonderful!" Hunk mumbled.  "If Lotor captures Arus and Princess Romelle, he'll as good as have Pollux too!"

"I'm all right," she said to Keith. "Please..."

Keith set Allura down on the ground, on her feet.  "Allura, jet back to the Palace.  Get whatever things you have, and get back here...on the double!"

She nodded, then took off toward the Palace.

Then he turned to the rest of his team.  "The rest of you, gather your stuff and meet back here in five minutes!  We're leaving immediately for Arus!"

"Right!" shouted four voices, each running toward the Palace entrance.

Keith turned to King Augusta.  "I'm sorry, Your Majesty.  But it appears we must return home quickly.  Arus is about to come under fire by the forces of Doom."

King Augusta bowed his head understandingly.  "Yes, of course." He then extended a hand toward the Voltron Commander.  "I thank you once again, Commander Keith Hunter.  You and your team will go down in history as heroes of Planet Surbain.  I am glad that the history
between Arus and Surbain continues to have many happy entries."

Keith grabbed hold of Augusta's hand, shaking it respectfully. "Thank you, Your Majesty, for returning Arus's Princess."

"I am somewhat ashamed that this whole thing took place the way it did." The king confessed. "I was swayed by Anserrot, and unfortunately, made several poor judgements concerning your Princess.  I can assure you, however, that nothing happened between the two of us. It was purely innocent."

"I understand." Keith said, a smile hiding the smirk that was developing on his face.  "Thank you again for your hospitality.  But, if you'll excuse me, King Augusta, I must gather my personal belongings and prepare to leave for Planet Arus at once."

"Of course, Commander." Augusta nodded. "Have safe and successful journey home."

"Thank you, Your Majesty.  Good luck to you too, sir." Keith bowed once again reverently, and then turned on one heel, running toward the Palace.

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

Five minutes later, Keith had returned to find his team assembled and waiting.  He looked around, but found one person missing...  "Where's the Princess?" he asked, suddenly concerned for her.

Lance couldn't pass up the opportunity to answer the question.  "I sent her up to the cockpit of Black Lion.  Why?  Missing her, Romeo?"

"Knock it off, Lance..." Keith huffed back.  "You can drill me later.  Right now, we've got to get back to Arus!"

Keith turned to his wizkid techie... "Pidge, can we do hyper-spaceflight?"

"I knew you were going to ask me that." he sighed.  "Its dangerous.  We've only done it one other timeà and we were lucky."

"No choice, Pidge." Keith interupted.  "We have to get to Arus as quickly as possible."

"It's risky, Commander." Pidge added.

"We'll have to take the risk, if we hope to save Arus from Lotor!" Keith decided.  "Let's get going!"

The team ran for their individual cockpit lifts, while Sven and Hunk climbed into theirs.  As Keith neared the top of the cockpit door, he pulled himself up, and climbed through the entranceway, not willing to wait for the lift to make it all the way up to the top.

He saw Allura sitting in the command chair, feeding coordinates into Black Lion's control console.  She turned and saw him standing to her right.  "I was setting the flight plan." she said nervously.

Keith knelt down to her.  "Don't worry, Princess.  We'll get to Arus in time.  I promise."

"Romelle..." she said suddenly, her face full of concern. "We have to save Romelle... and Coran too..."

"We'll save them all.  Don't worry.  Just strap yourself in tight. We're attempting hyper-flight." Keith told her.

"Hyper-flight?  But... isn't that dangerous?" she asked.

"No more dangerous than what we have just been through." Keith replied taking her hand in his.  "Come on, we have to go, and you need to strap yourself in tight."

Allura rose to her feet, and abandoned the command chair.  As Keith took his place, Allura sat in the passenger seat, strapping the safety harness around herself.

Keith opened a channel to his team...

"Okay, let's get going, team.  Next stop... Planet Arus!" He took the controls in his hand.

Voltron lifted off of the ground, and accelerated full speed up into the sky.  As they reached the outer most atmosphere, Keith opened a channel to Pidge.  "Do you have the coordinates, Pidge?"

"Yes.  I'm feeding them into the Lion computers now.  We'll be readyànow!" Pidge said. "Its at your command, Keith."

"Good." Taking a deep breath, and exhaling it slowly, Keith began the hyper-flight sequence. "Hold on team.  This could be a bit bumpy..."

Far above the surface of Surbain, Voltron began to turn and twist, with the space around him doing the same.

"Hyper-flight in five, four, three, two, one... now!" Keith shouted.

Voltron abruptly turned and twisted, as a vortex appeared in front of him, seemingly sucking him into it. The speed increased dramatically.

Inside the cockpits, the Voltron Force watched as space disappeared, bringing in it's place a batch of brilliant colors, all twisting and turning with the passing of time.

Keith was feeling nauseous, and was sure much of his team was feeling the same. Suddenly, the turning and twisting began to level out.  Keith watched his instruments coming back on line.

"Pidge," he struggled to say. "Get me a reading on navigation and position... so as you can!"

"Will do!" he replied, his voice shaky.

"Princess, you still with me?" Keith asked behind him.

"Yes, I'm still here!" she replied.

The spinning began to cease, and slowly space began to return to normal view.  Keith pulled the controls to bring Voltron to a complete stop, so that Pidge could get a reading as to where in space they were.

Keith and the rest of the team waited for the response...

Suddenly, a joyful shout came over the COM.  "Keith!" Pidge cried.  "Planet Arus... dead ahead!"

Keith turned Voltron around, and sure enough... Arus was in sight...

Suddenly, the COM burst into a rise of excited cheers, as Hunk, Lance and Pidge rejoiced at the apparent success of the fold operation.

Seconds later... the shouts of joy were quickly replaced with vocal gasps...

Doom ships were surrounding the planet.

"Okay team!  We're not finished for the day yet!" Keith shouted, letting his natural leadership skills take over.  "Let's go and get rid of the trash!  Form Blazing Sword!"

Once again, Voltron's arms came together, forming the Blazing Sword.

"Attack those battle cruisers!" Keith ordered.

Voltron swung his Red Lion arm over his head, as the afterburners kicked in, accelerating the mighty defender forward toward the Doom armada.  Keith opened a channel to the surface:

"Castle Control, this is Keith.  Coran, do you read?"

"Commander!" a very excited Coran responded.  "You've returned!"

"Yes, and just in time, I'd say.  Got a little company I see?" Keith said half-serious.

"Yes Commander!  You couldn't have returned at a better time.  Lotor is mounting an attack against us.  There are troops surrounding the Castle, and Lotor has made several demands to give up or else." Coran replied.

"Give up or else what?" Lance chimed in.  "He's full of hot air!"

"Commander, is the Princess with you?  Is she safe?" Coran inquired.

"Yes, Coran. Allura is on board, and is fine.  I'd let you talk to her, but I'm afraid we have a little job to take care of first." Keith replied.

"But don't worry, Coran," Lance added.  "We'll be home for dinner!"

"Did someone say food?" Hunk joked.

"Is Romelle safe?" Sven asked suddenly, interrupting the babble over the COM.

"Yes, Sven.  Romelle is safe and unharmed.  I am sure she will rejoice upon hearing the news of your return." Coran said.

"Tell her to be brave!" Sven replied.

"Okay, enough idle chit-chat." Keith said,
cutting into the conversation suddenly. 
"We've got a job to do, so let's do it!"

"LET'S GO VOLTRON FORCE!"
everyone shouted over the COM.


Keith maneuvered Voltron to head for the Castle of Lions.  On the way down, Voltron managed to swipe through a few Doom cruisers, utterly destroying them.

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

Below, at the Castle of Lions, Romelle had came charging into the Control Room.  "Is it true, Coran?" she shouted, nearly out of breath. "Tell me!  Has Sven and the others returned?"

Coran turned to her.  "Yes, Princess.  Even now, they are in route to the Castle."

Romelle smiled joyfully. "May I speak to him?"

"Not at this time." Coran advised. 
"Commander Keith has requested on
necessary communications between us.
Skull tanks that are threatening to
destroy us currently surround the Castle.
Our force shields are in place and holding,
but they can't hold out forever.  Voltron is
coming in to help us."

"Voltron!" she shouted, suddenly pointing
to the large main monitor.

Coran turned and smiled as the image of
Voltron was coming into view.  "It is good
to see Voltron back in action!"




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

Keith opened up a channel to Lotor. "Prince Lotor, abandon your claim to Arus, or be destroyed!  This is your first and last warning!"

Lotor's evil half-metallic image came on across the ultra-wave.  "You...order me?  You insolent, pathetic human!  I'll squash you!"

"Oh sure you will!" Lance scoffed.

"Lance, that's enough!" Keith reprimanded.  "Yes Lotor, we order you to leave Arus peacefully, or we will be forced to destroy you!"

"Keith, you have been a thorn in my side for far too long!" Lotor shouted.  "But I'll tell you what I will do.  If you agree to fight me, man to man, then I'll stop my challenge to the Castle."

"Duel?" Keith asked.  "What sort of a duel?"

"A duel to the death, you idiot!" Lotor shouted.  "We duel for Arus, and its Princess.  The victor takes all!  What do you say?"

"I say, you're out of your mind!" Keith yelled.  "Just what makes you think I'll come out and meet you?  No doubt, you'll have some trick up your sleeve to surprise me with!"

"Ah, yes brave Voltron Commander.  But if you don't meet my challenge, then the bombs I've set around the Castle's force field will go off at my command, effectively destroying the Castle!"

"What?" Allura shouted, as she unhooked her safety restraints and ran forward toward Keith's command chair.  "Lotor!  No...you can't!" Allura shouted.

"Ah, my beautiful Princess!" Lotor flattered her.  "It appears that your Commander has no stomach for facing a true challenge!  It's really too bad that I must destroy the Castle."

"NO!" Allura shouted.

"Then perhaps you'll surrender yourself to me, and then I'll spare the Castle.  Since it's obvious that Commander Keith has no backbone to protect you..."

"She's not going with you, anywhere!" Lance shouted.

"Well, perhaps Lance would do the honor of meeting my challenge!  Or is the love of his Princess so little, that he is willing to hide himself away from danger, as his leader demonstrates?" Lotor antagonized.  "Isn't she woman enough to offer up your life for?"

"Why you..." Lance grumbled.

"That does it..." Keith mumbled angrily.  "I've had enough of this!"

Allura looked at Keith and then reached across him to mute the COM from his control panel. "Keith...you know he's only trying to provoke you!  You're not actually thinking of going out there and meeting that mad man's challenge, are you?"

"Allura, I'm tired of him pushing people around!  That was the last insult he's going to hurl at you!" Keith said firmly.

"No Keith!  I won't let you go!  It's far too dangerous!" Allura shouted, grabbing onto his arm.

"Princess!  I promised a long time ago that I would do everything within my power to protect you and Planet Arus.  I'm not about to give up on the promise now!" Keith said determinably. "What happens to me is not important.  What happens to you and Arus, is!"

"Not to me, its not!" Allura argued.  "I will not allow you to do this!  What if you're killed?"

"Then...I died for a noble cause." Keith sighed.

"No!  Absolutely not!  I won't let you go out there alone!  This is Lotor we're talking about! He's ruthless!  He'll destroy you, Keith!  I can't let that happen!  I won't let that happen!"

"Princess...with all due respect, this is not your decision to make.  As Commander of Voltron, and the protector of Arus, I am going to accept Lotor's challenge.  There's a chance I could win, you know."

"There's an even greater chance that Lotor will kill you!" Allura fired back with equal determination.  "As Princess of Planet Arus, I can not allow this to happen.   I am therefore, discharging you of your duty as Voltron's Commander!  You are relieved of your duty,
Commander Keith Hunter!"

"Sorry, Princess. Even if you do relieve me of my duty as Commander of Voltron, you can't relieve me of my own free will to protect your honor...and the honor of Planet Arus." Keith said, shaking his head.  "That's something that's deep within my heart." Keith reached his hand up to her chin, gently taking hold of it.  "And I won't give up my convictions...not even for you."

"No!" Allura shouted at him in anger, suddenly pushing his hand away.  "I don't need your protection!  I won't be the conviction that  sends to you an early grave!  I don't need you show off your manhood on my behalf!  I am quite capable..."


"Yes, yes.. same old song and dance routine, Allura!" Keith fired back.  "If I wasn't around to protect you, you'd be dead...or worse, a slave wife to that monster out there!"

"I never asked you to be my personal guardian, Commander!" Allura shouted.

"And as I am so fond of reminding you, I don't need your permission to do my job, Princess!" Keith shouted back at her.

"You have been relieved of your job, Commander!" Allura shouted, her voice thick with tears.

"Not yet, I'm not!" Keith calmly, but firmly said.  Keith then opened the COM to Lotor. "What are the stakes?"

Allura began to reach for the COM to disconnect the link, but Keith grabbed her hands, holding her at bay while he waited for Lotor's reply.

"If you win, I will leave Arus peacefully.  If I win, I get Princess Allura and all of Planet Arus!" Lotor then paused, a chuckle escaping his lips.  "Of course, I'll never lose."

"And if I chose not to face off with you?" Keith asked.

"Then I shall destroy the Castle of Lions and everyone in it...now!" Lotor shouted.  A long pause followed before Lotor said another word.  "The choice is yours, of course."

Allura's mouth hung open.  She finally saw Keith's position in the disagreement between them. It appeared that he would have no choice, if the Castle and everyone inside were to survive. She regretfully faced him once again, her tone much more compassionate then before.

"Keith...please...there...there has to be some other way..." she stammered.

Keith looked up to her, his face stern with determination.  "Princess, I have no choice.  I have to meet his challenge.  Can't you see that now?"

Allura nodded slowly.  "I do.  But...what if he..."

"I'll just have to be smart about this, that's all," he said, as if reading her exact thoughts. "He won't kill me.  I'm too strong willed. I have a duty to perform.  If he thinks for one minute that
I'm going to roll over and allow him to take you and Arus without a fight, he's got another thing coming!"

"Oh Keith...this...this can't be happening." she wept.

"It is, Allura." Keith replied firmly.  "This is the situation your father forewarned me about. I know it now.  I have to do this... there's no choice."

The COM suddenly lit up with
comments from the rest of the team.

"Keith...don't tell me you're actually
thinking of facing him?" Hunk shouted.

"Yeah, you know he's baiting you!"
Lance added.

"Don't do it, Skipper!" Pidge also
added. "It's got to be a trap!"

"Let me go instead, Keith!"
Hunk volunteered.

Keith smiled. "I appreciate your comments, and Hunk, I appreciate your willingness to go in my place.  But Lotor wants me...and me alone."

"You can't be serious!" Lance shouted.  "You ARE going, aren't you?"

"I have to, Lance." Keith replied.  "He has us over a barrel.  If I don't go, he'll destroy the Castle of Lions, and everyone inside, including Princess Romelle and Coran."

"Romelle!" Sven shouted suddenly.  "We can't let dat happen!"

"I agree...and that's why I must accept his challenge.  Like it or not...agree with me or not." Keith finally said before addressing Lotor.  "Okay, Lotor.  I accept your challenge."

"Good...this should prove interesting," Lotor scoffed.  "I've been waiting to destroy you since you were prisoner on my ship.  Now it looks like I'll get a second chance at that!"

"I wouldn't bet on that if I were you, Lotor," Keith said calmly. "I'm not going to be that easy to get rid of."

"Easy enough!" Lotor snorted.  "We meet in front of Castle Arus...in five minutes!  That's how long I'll give you to bid farewell to your team and your Princess."

The communication cut off abruptly.

Keith stood up from his command chair and moved past Allura without a sound.  He headed for the back cabinet.

Allura followed behind him quietly.

He opened the cabinet and grabbed a laser sword and a blaster,tucking them in their holders that were on his uniform.

Next, he methodically reached for a jetpack, and began securing it around himself, to fly to the ground.

Allura watched in silence.  She wanted so desperately to say something...even to take him in her arms.  But she knew Keith had to focus all of his concentration on the coming battle.

She knew him well enough to know that he was focusing all of his energy on the duel, and he had no time for idle chit-chat.

Suddenly, Keith whirled around to look at her.  "If something happens to me, you are ordered to take control of Black Lion and Voltron.  You are the only person that can fly Black Lion, and the only one on the team that has had experience in piloting Voltron."

"Nothing is going to happen to you, Keith." Allura smiled, trying to appear brave for his sake. "I know you'll be victorious."

"Yeah, but just in case, you have your orders." Keith again said.

"I understand...Commander." She replied with a snappy salute.

Keith smiled and nodded his head, then turned to leave.  But suddenly, he stopped...

"Princess..." his voice sounded through the cockpit, his back to her.  "If I don't make it out of this...I want you to know that I love you, with all of my heart.  What I do now, I gladly do for you...Allura.  If something happens to me, you must promise me that you'll go on with your life."

The tears fell from Allura's face like rain. "I promise, Keith." she replied, her voice echoing the tears that were falling.  "I promise."

Keith only nodded, and then made his way out of the cockpit to join Lotor on the ground.

Allura quickly rushed over to the command chair.  Sweeping her skirt under her, she sat down. She pointed the monitor down to the exact area where Lotor was already waiting.

Then she saw Keith jet down across from him.  Allura boosted the gain on the exterior microphones, so that she could hear the exchange going on below.

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

Inside the Castle, Coran and Romelle stood in shock in the Control Room.

"Coran!" Romelle gasped.  "That's Keith!  What's he doing?"

"It would appear that our Commander has been forced into a duel with Lotor.  And if I had to hazard a guess, I would say it was for the Castle." Coran sighed.

"He can't!" Romelle shouted.  "He'll be killed!"

"The Commander knows what he is doing." Coran said with a steady voice.  "This is not the first time he has met up with Lotor.  And as long as that scoundrel lives, it shall not be the last."

"But...Allura will be crushed if he dies!" Romelle blurted out, not realizing that Coran had not known of their confession of love to each other.

Coran raised an eyebrow. "Yes, but the Princess is strong.  She will survive."

"Not without Keith!" Romelle shouted, turning her head toward Coran. "She just discovered how much she loves him, and he, her!  Now, Lotor is threatening to take that all away from them!  It's simply not fair!"

Coran glanced at Romelle.  If he understood it all correctly, that would mean that his Princess and her Commander have fallen in love, and have in fact, confessed it to each other.  In his heart, Coran had always felt that Keith was here for a special purpose.  He seemed
to take special interest in the protection of the Princess.

Now... he understood why.  And...he understood why Keith found he had to fight against Lotor. He was once again, protecting the Princess, and the things that are most dear to her.

"Commander Keith Hunter," Coran thought proudly. "I salute you, sir.  Good luck."

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