[13] Faded

The inquisitive nature coming from both the giant cat and the boy's protecto-bot helped feed the fatigued Paladin's patience as she waited for a response from her comrades. Her patience was growing thin, and Pidge absolutely hated not getting any results from her efforts. The lack of anything was killing her! But Green continued to coax the green paladin to talk, to stay more positive. So she began with another story about her teammates.


Pidge decided she had the time to kill, because ten minutes was long enough for her to be productive with something. Due to all the residual feedback left behind from that Galra crystal, Coran made a comment to check the structural integrity of the ship's systems... when they had free time. So she took this scant amount of free time to look for any more glitches.

She agreed it must have been the crystal, and not Sendak. After talking with Shiro, Sendak had been evacuated before the AI took Allura into her own delusional hallucinations. That soon became a highly debated and unresolved argument that Sendak was the culprit. Shiro stood his ground that the Galra was in control somehow, and Keith agreed with him (by default). Lance and Allura did not, thinking it had to have been the castle ship. The majority of the weirdness had begin when they started Sendak's memory extraction. But was he also the reason for Alfor's AI to become corrupt? Pidge felt she had to find more concrete evidence.

Ghosts… sure, Lance.

That was the way Lance portrayed himself with his overactive imagination, and she couldn't help but tease him. He tried so hard to sound so smart and important, and.. well, sometimes she just wanted to yell at him to stop being so pretentious. So fake!

'It's okay to be yourself… to believe in yourself!' ...that's what her brother used to tell her when Katie got mad about her classmates. Trying to tell Lance that, yeah.. she felt it would fall on deaf ears. All the more reason why Lance was an idiot. He only saw her as some nerdy, short tomboy.

But the feisty redhead didn't know how she felt about him either. It probably was better to leave him in the friendzone anyway, as a brotherly type. Her real brother, Lance would never be.. though. Besides, Keith's equally failed attempts to flirt with the idiot were admittedly amusing, and relatable.

Anyway... being small had its advantages at times like this, which meant literally worming her way into things. The mice, being curious about her odd position, had come by too. Yes, having the smallest mouse of the four pop up in amongst the wiring before her did give Pidge a start. After a brief explanation, the mice were all in for the venture.

The Green Paladin and the mice were squeezed inside the stand of her console on the deck when Lance approached. The back panel was removed and set right next to the console, so it was not that much of a surprise he didn't notice it when he approached. Sometimes Lance's powers of observation weren't exactly the best at times… especially when he was carrying on a conversation with himself.

Pidge had been tapping into one of the feeds to run calibration, so the power was not shut off yet. But the way Lance was going on about feeling like an idiot (surprise) because he was the only one who believed in ghosts, she realized he wasn't alone this time. Keith finally muttered something in disagreement.

"I'm serious, Mullet! How could it be Coran? Sendak or an AI glitch wouldn't be able to do that!" Lance complained, pointing at the video feed he found of the airlock. There was no one to be seen in that area.

"You just answered your own stupid question…" Keith sighed.

"But if it wasn't any of them, then who was it?!" Lance huffed as he tried to scrub back and forth on the dark, shapeless video recoding of the hallway outside the airlock. "His voice was sounded so real, so how else could it be projected down there?"

More silence, before the other repeated what he said earlier. "Like I said, I didn't see anyone when I was in that hall," Keith's voice sounded flat and tired.

"That's just it! Ghosts are real, and this is the only way I can prove it! You don't have to see them!" Lance, on the other hand, sounded determined to prove this to Keith. Keith, because he was the only other one who had experienced that level of intensity as they clinged to their lifes. And because Lance just wanted that kind acknowledgment from someone.

The mice mocked Lance's statement, playing out their own set of cherades. Pidge pressed her lips together to keep herself from laughing. But her brain was churning suddenly with new and insanely wicked ideas for pranks now. Lance talked as if he really liked to scare himself silly with this stuff. And Keith, well, even though he acted like he was indifferent about the matter, he wasn't. The Green Paladin couldn't forget that spooked look in his eye when she and Hunk saw the two of them after they opened the lab bay doors. Keith claimed it was because a robot was trying to kill him, but that was the words of a boy running for his life.

Well, make that two boys scared shitless, and she was in the position to make that happen again. The mice seemed to catch her drift, and nodded eagerly for their silent instructions.

"Gyah!" Lance suddenly jumped, his hand flying up.

"What?"

"It.. it zapped me!"

"So?"

"Fhh.. that's not normal!" the taller teen whined.

There was silence, so Pidge could only assume he was touching the panel again. And so...

"Nyrgh.. dammit! Why?" Lance swore while shaking out his hand.

"Security measures?" Keith bluntly stated.

"There has to be another way..."

Then the lights flickered and shut off completely. In the darkness, the four mice had ran out to different locations on the control deck to complete the eerie mood. Pidge also had access to the climate control, and lowered the setting to make it feel even colder.

She drummed her fingers loudly against console down by the floor breifly, followed by more noises coming from another corner. Then the smaller of the mice ran across Lance's foot.

"What was that!" the lanky boy scrambled back a few feet.

Keith wasn't as much convinced. "... it's probably the mice playing security guard…. or something."

"Ohh… so now it's the castle mice. Of course!" Lance practically sounded like he was flailing his arms in exasperation. "Do you know how much of a lame-brained idea that is, especially coming from you?!"

"It's clearly a possibly!" Keith shouted back.

Then Pidge knocked down the metal panel, something much more difficult for the mice to do, and shrunk back inside the console.

The loud bang of metal hitting the floor practically caused Lance to jump behind Keith, grabbing him to use like a human shield. A round of swears had filled the room too, because that was too much intimacy for Keith.

"Gah.. let go!" the shorter teen swatted the clingy hands away as he scooted back. Keith habitually drew his knive and held the blade in a defensive position against his lower arm as he knelt down to the console to see why the panel fell.

Hearing him get closer, Pidge pressed herself more into the front corner and pulled over some of the wiring to stay hidden. It was already dark in the room, so it would be hard to see inside. Regardless, when Keith had knelt down to look, the smallest castle mouse suddenly swung from wiring above and bound off his back. The small critter disappeared back into the darkness before he was noticed.

"What, Lance?" Keith stood up to look at him.

"... what do you mean 'what'?" The lanky one apparently hadn't noticed anything.

"Didn't you just tap me on the back?" He stood up anyway.

"Um.. no?"

Keith just huffed, concluding that the cost was clear. He twirled his knive in his hand once to resheath it.

After hearing him walk away, Pidge silently accessed her communication transmitter, something she learned to be a Altean equivalent of a com-link with a built-in translator. Lance had gone back to justifying how wierd things like what just happened was reason to 'believe'. She smiled cunningly while adjusting the settings create static, language output, and then whispered into it to create a ghastly Altean utterance. The transmission was set to only be heard on the control deck.

Lance literally started panicking. "Whoa, whoa…. Wait- just how many Altean - or Paladin! - ghosts are still around here?"

"Honestly?" Keith retorted, but his hand was hovering near the hand of his blade again.

That was just the teaser. Pidge felt the need to introduce her dear Altean-language-learning monster to them as the main feature. Of course, the large, blue-green beast with protruding, stained tusks was just a hologram (a VERY realistic hologram), but they would be too busy freaking out to realize that.

"Oh my god! What have I done to deserve this?!" Lance wailed as he took off at a sprint from the bellowing, charging creature with lumpy skin.

"Be an idiot?" Keith roasted him. But instead of running away, he turned with knife drawn toward the angry beast. The Red Paladin intercepted, only to have run through the mist. His baffled expression was priceless.

"Shit, it is a ghost!" came Lance's best explanation.

"Quiznak!" Keith swiped again when it charged, but to no avail. He seemed to wrestle with that realization the monster must be a spirit. "How do you fight a damn ghost?"

"Maybe… if.. we stop moving and talking, it.. will no longer notice us.." Lance said more slowly and quietly from behind another console on the far side of the deck.

"It's a ghost…" Keith countered that idea, "Not a flippin' dinosaur!"

Yes, Keith would surprise them with unexpected jabs like this, which implied he nearly wasn't as left field as they thought.

"Uh Pidge? Are you done with going through the databank yet? Coran needs you ba-" Hunk's voice suddenly boomed over her open channel for all to hear, distrupting the tense mood that had been set. She frantically worked to cut off the broadcast, but it was already too late.

The Red Paladin, now more focused on what to look for in the dark console had spotted her. "Nice try.. Pidge," he had pushed aside more of the wiring.

"You mean this whole thing was a set-up!?" Lance gasped in dismay.

"Yes.. sorry…" she admitted openly. But the Green Paladin hardly looked at all remorseful about what she did.

"I totally believed!"

Keith threw up his hands, after spotting one of the castle mice next. "See… I told you this was faked! When are you people going to believe me?!"

"You really wanted this to be real?" Pidge asked Lance, a little more serious now.

"Well… yeah," the lanky teen sighed. He sounded a little more sheepish and hesitant about being more open. People tended to get weird about spirituality and religion, so maybe because of that he kept it more to himself? "Because, well.. it's from the stories my abuelita, my nana would tell us. About how important it was to remember family, that their spirits are always watching after us… so maybe.. just maybe it was the same out here. Maybe the previous Paladin's are trying to reach out to us too. I mean, yeah… what happened earlier was something malicious and wanted to kill us… but.."

Pidge could tell now that he was finally being real. This was the genuine Lance… observant, sensitive Lance.

"Yeah.. I see. You hoped you could find out what happened to the others.. to be a better Paladin ourselves..." Pidge echoed in agreement "I think.. well, we all want to… the only clues that are left is the connnection through our Lions."

"Yeah…" Lance sighed, scratching the back of his neck. "But maybe… this time, it might be better to look forward."

During their conversation, Keith had fallen silent by stepping away. He had that tendancy to do that when it came down to truly expressing how he felt. While Lance was afraid of not being good enough, Keith was afraid of getting hurt again. Deeply, emotionally hurt. Katie knew from what Shiro told her about Keith's past after that time she wanted to leave. About why Keith was so bent up about her wish to find her dad and brother… he never had the chance with his own. His mom had left when he was to young to remember her, and his dad had died when he was ten. The local orphanage Keith was a part of had placed him at the Garrison, where he had come to know Shiro as his new mentor. Keith had to deal with that agony of loss from the failed Kerbos mission, as much as she did… but at least for him, Shiro was found.

Katie was still searching...

"..Hey, Pidge? Can you hear me?" Hunk's voice emitted from the mini control panel gauntlet on her arm again.

"Yeah, sorry… I'm almost done!" she lifted her arm, responding back. Yep, and then there was Hunk, a whole other character in himself. His most charming quality was his intelligence, and the fact he actually understood what she was talking about. But other than that… Katie didn't know what else to make of the stout engineer yet, other than he was nice to girls he likes in general.


Pidge sighed as her bored gaze settled on the transparent screen before her, suffering each silent minute of worry. Her lion also had attempted to branch out from her signal to the other lions as well as the castle ship.

It was arduous. Relentless. Exhausting. The Green Paladin did her best to think of stories to tell Ronin and Green to pass the time, but it was just to pass the time. Every hour felt like a day, and it didn't help her mood any.

Where were the others, already?!

Katie refused to think that the worse had happened to them. Surely someone should be alive and okay. She rather think it was just that they were lightyears away, no thanks to the chaotic warp gate.

Her finger hestitated again after she picked up her cell phone. In her boredom, the redhead hooked her cell up to the lion so she could easily pick up and transmit signals from earth through it. She wanted to call Hiro, just to see how he was doing. Did they find Fred? Or would her call be at a really bad time?

All she could see was the never ending view of the blue and white world below, fading from day into night, and back again.

Katie felt so detached from everything now.

Green, for some crazy reason, suddenly felt it would be helpful to tell Katie that if she liked Hiro that much, then she should call him already. Why does she keep-

"Argh! I don't have a crush on Hiro!" Pidge blurted out loud in denial, gripping her head as she curled up in her pilot's chair. What was she supposed to think about that kid? It just wasn't everyday that she met someone her age who was just as smart… and apparently with as many favorable qualities that also reminded her of her teammates.

Somehow, her choice of words had alarmed Ronin as well. "Why do you desire to crush Hiro?" The robot prompted. His posture and the expression he wore on his face showed that he was ready to protect his human owner.

"What? No, no no no-" the redhead's embarrassment grew even more. Her face suddenly felt flushed over how our of control this situation became. "It's not like that!"

But the robot did not appear to be listening to her that time.

"Your Pidge friend had the wish to crush you-"

At that, Pidge's eyes grew big in further alarm. "You're talking to Hiro now? You alerted him? Oh my god, nooo..!" she picked her phone up again to actually call the robotic genius herself. There was so much damage control to be had.

"Hello..?"

"Hi, this is Pidge. I can explain!"

"Uhm… okay? What-"

"I just said something metaphorical, and your robot misunderstood me," the words tumbled out of her mouth.

There was a pause, maybe due to the delay in transmission, but it was clearly a longer pause than before. Only an idiot could not figure out what that topic really was.

"Just.. don't ask me to explain..." she added, more assertively anyway.

"...right," Hiro finally said. Then his voice sounded more distant. "It's okay. At ease, Ronin."

Mr. Protecti-bot complied by powering down a level or three on his red-alert about her after that order. Geez.. as if there weren't already hundreds of miles between them right now.

"So.. are you okay? Did you get a hold of anyone?"

"No, not yet," Pidge answered, still just glaring at Ronin. It occured to her that if this actually was all a part of a scheme to get her to call him…

"...what time is it there?"

"1:42 in the afternoon-"

"Aah.. um, sorry! Are you in class?"

"No, I'm in my lab now. My next class doesn't start until 2."

"Okay, good- well.. I mean," Pidge had to stop for a second just to recollect, because.. god, why was she suddenly getting giddy over this? "I guess you found Fred?"

"Yeah," Hiro sighed. "He went off on his own in pursuit of a theif, and thinks the guy knocked him out… or something. He said he couldn't alert us because his phone was dead."

"Really?" Pidge tried to not sound too curious, but she was.

"Well, it was wierd… Baymax noticed something was off right away. Fred's got higher amounts of radiation in his bloodstream than what's humanly acceptable… but he hasn't shown any signs of radiation poisoning. Yet."

"Interesting…" Yes, somehow she was reminded of that time where Lance had been left hand-cuffed and stranded to a space tree by those space-pirate rebels. Rebels who had lured the Voltron team into thinking that they were just a couple of travelers in need of a repair. Fortunately for Lance, it was the Lion they wanted and not him. "But you don't think that's what really happened..?"

"No, not really."

"Like.. he was baited, because they wanted Fred for something?" Oh my, the many new training scenarios that Coran and Lauura had drilled them over after that last embarrassing slip-up with the two rebel, pirate people. All in an effort to better recognizing these scams in the future! Ugh.

There was another noticeable delay in the response. "Yeah… but for what?"

Pidge somehow found herself laughing once. How was she supposed to know the answer to that? Her understanding of the man-child was very limited though. "Uhm.. wasn't he the son of a Very Important Person?"

"That's been the problem a couple times before, but we caught those people… this seems different."

The Green Paladin decided Hiro was probably venting at this point anyway, even though she did wonder why would a villian-type expose a person to radiation? "Well, just keep an eye on him… just in case."

"Absolutely…" he agreed. In the background, she heard Baymax's voice prompting him about something again. "Oh.. oh shit, I gotta go! Class!"

"Right! Take care!" Pidge suddenly realized the same and let him go.

But instead of immediately hanging up, somehow she noticed Hiro had not (or he thought he did?). There were some shuffling noises, and Hiro ranting about where his USB drive and his pencil case was. Baymax pointed it out to him, being where it had always been by his computer. The following response was that of annoyance, at which Baymax asked why Hiro's heart rate was up and his eyesight not the best. There was a demanding "No, it's not!" after his robot mentioned that he acted about the same way with someone called 'Karmi'. "That's because she irritates me to no end!" the muffled words resonded before the transmission finally faded out. Karmi?

Pidge squeezed her eyes shut, sinking back into her pilot's seat. Yes, the phone call did help, and Pidge sighed audibly. "I still hate you guys…" she told Green and Ronin.

She didn't notice it at first though, since it was a slight flicker of light on the audio visual read-out. But on the next attempt, the voice came in louder.

"Oh my god! Hunk! Is that you?!" Pidge had suddenly scrambled to tweak the reception on her console, "Where are you guys?!".

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Wow…. I return with another chapter! So much time had past, there is practically a whole other season of BH6 out (that I still need to watch). I hope you enjoyed some Klance though.

Hah… yas, goodness… I blame My Hero Academia for stealing me away for a bit. *eyeshift*

But! Time to get this one moving again, with a lot more bang!