"Where Have All The Children Gone?"

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 22
The Children Are the Future

The village of Capri was all a
buzz at the news that Princess Allura,
herself, had extended an invitation
to the children of the village, to
come and meet with her at the
Castle of Lions.

It was rumored for several days, that the Princess had been hurt while fighting off the evil forces of Doom in her Blue Lion.  The injury, thankfully, was not severe, and as soon as she recovered, Allura quickly sent word to Capri, extending a welcoming request to the children, their parents or guardians, and Mayor Sonnet.

As the children stepped inside of the Castle entrance, sounds of gasps of excitement and ahs of wonder could be heard, as they looked around for the first time.  Only a few children had seen it before, and at that time, there was not much to see.  But now, there was all the time in the world to enjoy the wonders of the Castle of Lions.

Coran Anderson met the children and their escorts, and the smile on his face rivaled theirs.

"Welcome, honored guest!'
Coran began. "On behalf of
her Royal Highness, Princess Allura,
I welcome you all to the Castle of Lions
the very creation of the Great
King Alfor!  Now, before I take you to
Her Majesty, let me show you a
few sites I believe you will all find
of interest. Then, Princess Allura
has a special surprise awaiting
you in the main hall!"

The children cheered boisterously, as they all followed Coran down the corridor toward the Castle's Control Room.

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

In the main hall, Allura had just
made the final finishing touches on
the table centerpieces, as she
waited for Coran to bring the children
in to see her.

Keith finished setting up the
decorations on the punch table, while
Lance and Pidge helped out by
making sure there were enough
seats for everyone.

Hunk was in the kitchen, helping to get everything ready in there as well... and perhaps, to do a bit of 'quality control', by tasting a bit here and there.

The Princess carefully set the last centerpiece on the table, a simple centerpiece... a blue tubular middle piece, with slips of blue sparkling paper that were attached to it, fanning out from the top,
giving the whole thing a sort of water fountain-looking effect.

"I finished setting up the decorations on the table over there, Princess." Keith said to Allura, as he walked up to her from behind. "I think it all looks great!"

"Yes," Allura replied, somewhat conservatively. "I hope they'll like it.  Are you sure the centerpieces look okay, Keith?"

Keith impulsively reached out and cupped her hands with his own. "Its looks great, Allura." he said softly to her, giving her hands a reaffirming squeeze. "The kids are gonna love it."

Allura signed. "I certainly hope so," she replied with a discouraging tone of voice. "I really do."

Lance walked over to them, a cookie hanging out of his mouth. "Well... the cookies are good!" he mumbled as he ate. "If they won't eat um', I sure will!"

"Easy there, Lance!" Keith said suddenly.
"Those cookies are for the
guests, remember?"

"I know," Lance replied with a shrug
of his shoulders. "I was just
testing them...you know...for freshness?"

"Hunk's doing that, just fine." Pidge replied,
coming up behind Lance. "He doesn't need
any help. In fact, if Coran doesn't bring
the kids here soon, there'll be no more
refreshments left!"

"Oh no!" Allura gasp. "That's not true, is it?"

Keith, Lance and Pidge suddenly broke
out into a round of laughter.

"No, Princess. I'm only teasing!" Pidge replied.

No sooner did Pidge finish speaking, Coran arrived with the very special guests from the village of Capri.

The children instantly saw the Princess and Keith, and ran right for them both.  Allura giggled joyfully, as she stretched out her hands to gather as many children to her as she possibly could.

Keith recognized one of the little girls that had been held hostage with them the little girl named Marie.  The Voltron Commander knelt down to the crowd of children, and reached out his hand to pat little Marie on the head.

"Hey there!" Keith said to child. "How are you?"

"Fine!" she beamed. "Are you okay, too?"

"Yeah," another small child said, who also had been trapped with them. "That bad man didn't hurt you, did he?"

The children all began talking at once...

"Hey! Wait a minute... wait a minute!"
Keith chuckled, holding out
his hands in front of himself.
"One at a time...please!  There's
more than enough of me for
everyone to talk to!"

"We're you scared, Princess Allura?" one of the little boys asked innocently.

Allura looked over to Keith, and found that he was looking at her as well.  She smiled, both at him, and at the question...

"Yes...I will tell you that I was afraid." Allura responded. "But being afraid does not make you a coward."

"That's right," Keith added. "Fear is natural.  You sometimes can't help it.  But fear can also be your friend.  It acts as a warning in your head...telling you to stay away from something, or to be careful when doing something."

"Were you worried, Commander Keith?" Marie asked shyly.

Keith took a deep breath, and pressed his lips together. "The only thing I was concerned about, is that you kids and the Princess could have gotten hurt.  I wasn't worried about myself.  I knew I had to give you time to escape with Coran and Princess Allura.  I guess... I was more focused on that, then on myself."

"Wow!" a little boy said. "You're so brave!  I'll bet you never get afraid!"

Keith shook his head. "No, I get afraid... "

"When?" Marie asked him. "When were you afraid?"

Keith blinked rapidly for a few seconds, then tuned his head to look at Allura, standing next to him, and surrounded by children...

"I was afraid, when Princess Allura's got hurt, this last round out with Lotor." Keith said. "When I saw her hurt...I...well... I was afraid."

"Of what?" a little boy asked him.

"That...that she might be hurt...real bad this time." Keith said, his voice reduced to a sigh.

"But... I wasn't." Allura said quickly, to both Keith and the children.  "I'm fine."

"You could have been badly hurt, though,"
Keith added quietly.  "And...maybe that's
something we need to address for the  future...
to make sure it never happens again."

Allura looked over at him, a blank stare
suddenly appearing on her face.

Coran quickly saw the conversation was breaking down and quickly intervened... "Uh, children come over here to the tables!  The Princess has arranged a lovely snack for all of you!"

The children quickly shouted their approval, and immediately ran for the tables.  Hunk came out of the kitchen, holding a few trays of cookies in his hands.

"Hey, kids!" he shouted in a loud voice. "Who wants cookies?"

"WE DO!  WE DO!" the kids shouted at once.

As Hunk came out, four other kitchen servants followed him, all were holding trays of cookies. A fifth servant appeared with a wheeling cart,holding pitchers of milk for the children to drink.

Pidge and Lance lent a helping hand to Hunk, as they all began passing out cookies to the children.

Allura and Keith remained at a distance away from the children.

"Allura," Keith began.
"I've been thinking..."


"Uh-oh," Allura thought to herself.
"Here it comes..."


"Maybe your flying Blue Lion isn't
all that great of an idea after
all." Keith said quietly.
"You're the Princess.  You should be
running the affairs of the planet...
not risking your life in the air."

"Keith...please," Allura began.

Keith immediately turned to her. "Allura, I'm serious about this!  Each time we go up into the air, I'm afraid for your life!"

"Why now?" she said suddenly, her voice tempered. "I have always been in the air with you boys...and not once have you ever been concerned about it!  Now... now you have doubts?"

"Allura...I...well...yes!  I have doubts now!" Keith replied, his tone somewhat panicked.

"What's changed so, that you're afraid of me flying...especially now... after all of this time?" She asked him.

"Things have changed between us, Allura!" Keith said.

"No...things have changed with you!" Allura replied. "I'm still the same person I was! Something's different in your attitude, Keith!"

"Yeah...you're right." Keith replied quietly. "Perhaps, I... I care more now, than I have before."

"Please, Keith," Allura began to beg. "I love to fly!  It's the only freedom I truly have to enjoy. Please...don't take that away from me!"

"Allura...I..."

"Please, Keith?" Allura begged again, now turning toward him, and staring him straight in the face. "Please...I'm asking you not to take me off of the team!  Whatever it is that I'm doing wrong, I'll try harder to correct!"

"No, its that you're doing wrong, Princess..." Keith answered. "As a matter of fact, you're one of my best pilots..."

"Then...what is it?" Allura said quietly.  "Keith.... talk to me!"

Keith suddenly paused...giving no answer.  

Allura frowned at his silence...

"Keith, you can't ground me!  You just can't!  I must fly the Blue Lion!" Allura pleaded. "If you ground me...I'll..."

"Princess...I'd never take that away from you." Keith replied. "I was merely suggesting..."

"I know what you were suggesting...and I'm not giving up Blue Lion!"  Allura replied firmly. "Blue Lion and I have a special connection.  I must fly, Keith!"

"Okay, okay," Keith replied, tired of fighting her. "I won't argue with you about it...I don't stand a chance in winning this battle, anyway.   Just...be careful.  Okay?  I don't think my heart can take it, seeing you hurt like that, ever again.  Don't you even understand how much you scared the daylights out of me?  When I took off your helmet...and I saw the blood that covered your blonde hair... I ...I froze."

Allura looked at him intensely. "I made a careless maneuver in battle.  I should have never flown that close to the Robeast.  That was careless, and lacking in judgment, on my part.  I won't let it
happen again."

"But don't you see, Allura?" Keith suddenly added. "Each time you fly...each time any of us flies it's an open invitation for an accident waiting to happen!  You could have been five parces away, and that Robeast might have still come after you!  It's obvious that Lotor has a dangerous obsession for you!  Is flying the Blue Lion wise, in light of Lotor's misguided affections for you?"

"Keith, I must protect my people!" she replied firmly. "These children here today, are only a small representation of my kingdom.  There are countless thousands upon thousands of people, who have risked their lives to protect their homes against Zarkon's vicious attacks on Planet Arus!  How can I be any less then they are?  If a husband and father is killed while protecting his family...doesn't that leave his 'kingdom' at risk too?"

"It's not the same, Allura." Keith replied dryly.

"It is the same, Keith!" Allura responded back. "If that man is killed in battle while protecting his family, his family is left without a protector...without guidance and direction!  So, the man must
take steps to ensure that he maintains his own safety as well as his family's well being.  I must also do the same.  I must learn that while I fight to protect my people, for their sake, I must be wise in doing so!"

"And wouldn't that be better accomplished with you on the ground, Allura?" Keith interjected.

"No." she shook her head. "Now, I'll hear no more of this!  I am Blue Lion's pilot!  I had an unfortunately incident...nothing more!  Unless you're going to tell me to stop flying Keith..."

"No, I'll leave that for you to decide." Keith replied.

"Then, I choose to fly Blue Lion." Allura said firmly.

"Then...I'm going to have to learn to deal with it, I guess." Keith sighed.

"Keith," Allura asked, walking up to him suddenly, standing inches away from him. "Why are you so nervous, suddenly?  This has to be more than just the blood in my hair."

Keith released yet another heavy sigh...

"I think... maybe...I'm more attached to you now than I was before all of this happened."

Allura smiled. "I know.  I promise to be more careful, but you mustn't worry about me, to the point where you jeopardize your own life.  I couldn't bare that, Keith!"

"Its my job to worry about you, remember?" Keith said with a half-hearted smile.

"Well, stop worrying, Keith!" Allura smiled back.  "I can take care of myself!"

Keith looked at her suddenly. "That's what I have to work around, Allura.  My natural instinct is to protect you.  You're asking me to rearrange my instincts.  That's a pretty tall order to fill."

"You can do it, Keith." She smiled at him. "And to help you, I promise to be more discerning."

A few of the older children were approaching Keith and the Princess...effectively ending any further conversation on the subject.

Kentell, Brian, Jacqie and Angeline all approached the Commander and the Princess.  Allura smiled and quickly greeted the children.

"Hello again!" she beamed. "I'm glad to see that you could make it!  Did you enjoy the snack provided?"

"Oh, yes!" Angeline replied. "I loved it!"

"Me too!" Brian replied happily. "It was really good!"

Jacqie timidly approached Keith. "I...I never thanked you...for... for saving me."

"You don't have to thank me, Jacqie." Keith replied, laying a hand on her shoulder.

She looked up at him "You... you remembered my name!"

"Of course!" Keith replied. "A little better than you did, I think!"

Jacqie suddenly remembered their first meeting in the village... he had asked for her name, and being so excited...she forgot it suddenly.  She made an absolute fool out of herself.

"Hey, come on, Jacqie," Keith said to her. "Let's go have some more milk and cookies."

"But...I've already had enough." She pouted.

"Well, I haven't had any...and I'd really like one of those chocolate chip ones!" Keith replied. "Want to join me?"

Suddenly, Jacqie's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Boy!  Would I!"

Keith held her by the hand, as he led her back to the table to rejoin the other children and adults.

Allura followed right behind him, with Brian, Angeline and Kentell right behind her.  As they all reached the table, Allura looked to Coran.

"I think its time." She said, giving her advisor a wink of her eye.

"Yes, Princess." Coran replied. "I believe you are right."

He quickly moved toward a table that had been set up in the corner.  It had been covered with a royal purple colored covering.  Something rather flat, but bulky, was beneath the covering.

Allura smiled as she watched Coran retrieve the item.  Coran picked it up, covering and all, and walked back to the Princess.

The stately advisor cleared
his throat to gather the attention
of everyone in the room.

"Excuse me, please!" he announced.
"May I please have everyone's
attention for a few moments?"

The room suddenly began to grow quiet, until it was so silent, that a pin could be heard dropping to the floorif one had done so.

"Thank you, one and all, for accepting the gracious invitation from her Royal Highness, Princess Allura, to be honored guests at the Castle today. And now, Princess Allura has something that she would like to say.  Your Majesty?"

Coran stepped back a few steps, allowing the Princess to step forward as the center of attention.

"Thank you, Coran. And thank you everyone for coming here today!  Everyone in this room has experienced, in one way or another, the evil that had taken place here a little more than a week ago.  But some of us are more aware of it then others in this room are.  And to those 13
children, I have some very special awards to pass out to!"

From the kitchen areaa wheeling cart came out.  On the cart, there was yet another covered surprise.

Allura smiled as the cart came out. "I'd like the smaller children first to come forward, and as I call your names, I'd like you to step over to stand with me."

The room suddenly buzzed with activity, and as Allura called each child's name, who had been held hostage with her, that child came running up to the front.

When all of the children were there, Allura presented her gifts of honor to them.  Each child received a golden lion coin, part of some of the treasure that had been hidden in the forest around Capri.

The, the children were instructed to return to their seats once again.  Allura turned to Coran, and he in turn, nodded that he was ready for her to proceed.

"Next, I'd like to reward the following people.  When you hear your name, please come forth." The Princess regally said.

She then turned to Coran, who now had specially prepared plaques in his possession.

Coran handed the first plaque to the Princess.  She accepted it, and with a proud voice, called up the first person...

"Rayna," she said. "Please come forward."

Rayna, who had been sitting with her friends, Kentell, Brian, Jacqie and Angeline, rose to her feet and walked up to the front.

Suddenly, Keith moved up along side of the Princess.  A wide smile was on his face as he waited for the child to come over to where they stood.

Rayna came to stand in front of Princess Allura, as she held the plaque before her. "She then called one by one, Angeline, Brian and Jacqie up to join Rayna.  Allura handed each one a plaque. Then she looked at them all...

"You were all very brave!  This is a small token of my appreciation to you, thanking you for being so brave, and helping to care for the smaller children, during a most frightening time.  I want to thank each and every one of you!"

Allura extended her hand and gently shook the hand of each child standing before her.  Keith did likewise.  And as he reached for Jacqie's hand, he gave it an extra special squeeze...just enough to let her know that he appreciated her...even though she was not one of the children held captive.

Jacqie smiled at the Voltron Commander...even allowing herself to blush just a bit, at his sentimental gesture.

The Princess then turned them around to face the other children and adults. "I think they deserve a round of applause for their bravery!"

The children and adults broke out in wild applause, with some of the children whistling and shouted out loud.

As the children started to walk away, it was Angeline who turned back suddenly...

"Hey wait!" she said to her friends, causing them to stop in their tracks.  Angeline then turned to look at Princess Allura and Commander Keith. "What about Kentell?"

"Yeah!" Rayna and Brian echoed.

"Yeah, Kentell! What does he get?" Jacqie asked Keith.

Keith stifled an approaching snicker, warmed by the concern the children felt for their seemingly left out friend.

"Oh...for Kentell?" Allura said with a smile... "I have a special gift for him!"

The kids turned and smiled as they rushed back to their seats.  Allura then looked over the crowd of people and extended her hand to the 14-year-old lad.

"Kentell," Allura announced. "Would you step forward, please?"

With pride beaming from ear to ear, Kentell rose from his seat and approached the Princess, who was now waiting with a special gift, covered with a purple royal cloth.

"Kentell, my Honorary Lion Knight,
for your demonstration of valor,
far beyond the call of duty, I
present this replica of a lion statue,
made of clay, and overlaid with a
gold skin.  This lion, representative
of the Black Lion, shall be a
constant reminder to you that
your Princess deems you worth,
above all present here today, to
receive the title of Honorary Lion Knight.
Bear this title well, Kentell, and perhaps
one day in the future, you too, shall be a true
Lion Knight, and pilot one of the robot lions of Voltron!"

She suddenly removed the purple covering to reveal a small replica of the Black Lion, as Allura had stated.

Kentell's eyes opened wide with enthusiasm, as he stared at the object being presented to him. He extended his hand and took Allura's in his, as Keith had once done eight years ago.  Kentell knelt before Princess Allura and kissed the top of her hand.

He then rose to his feet, and reached over, shaking Keith's hand as well.  He then accepted the gift from Princess Allura and turned to his peers...

"May I have the honor in presenting to you, Sir Kentell, Honorary Lion Knight to the Crown of the Royal House of Arus!" Allura announced officially.

The crowd erupted in wild applause, and the children suddenly swarmed Kentell, embracing him as if he were a hero returning from a great battle.

Allura smiled as she watched the scene, then turned to look at Keith.

He, in turn, nodded his head. "Nicely done, Princess." Keith said to her quietly.

"He well deserves it, Keith." Allura replied. "He was certainly brave enough."

"Well, sounds to me like he's
captivated your heart, fair Princess."
Keith joked.

"Not so, Black Lion Knight!"
Allura replied with a giggle. "I'm
saving that honor for someone else."

Keith then leaned over to her...
"Then, our official date for
tomorrow evening is still on?"
he said coyly.

"I'm looking forward to it,
Commander!" she beamed brightly. "I only wish that tomorrow were today!"

"Tomorrow will be here soon enough," Keith said with a sigh. "For now, lets give our attention to the kids. They've been through so muchthey deserve this special day."

"And many more, I hope, in the days to come." Allura replied with a smile.

"Here, here!" Keith agreed.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent on the children...with little thought of what tomorrow held for Keith and Allura...and their date together.
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