Lance groaned, his eyes fluttering open. He looked around and saw he was lying in an unfamiliar room in the castle. He turned his head and saw Keith lying on a cot nearby, a thin sheet pulled up to his chin.

With a yawn, he sat up, disrupting his own blanket. He rubbed at his eyes, then looked down at his wrist. A white device was wrapped around it, going halfway up his forearm and featuring a screen that read off something in Altean writing. He was also wearing the suit he'd worn when he'd been in the cryo-pod.


Lance smiled and turned to the tiger that appeared at his side. "Hey, buddy. How're you doing?"

We're fine. As soon as our connection to Merla was reestablished and Voltron stabilized we were right as rain. It's you three we were worried about.

"What happened? The last thing I remember was lowering Merla into the crystal. That was the right thing to do, right? How is she?"

She's weak - it's going to take her a bit to regain enough strength just to fully communicate, let alone separate from her lion like this - but she'll be okay. You did the right thing as far as we can tell. We've never heard of something like this happening. It shouldn't have been possible. When we… became Voltron, it was supposed to be irreversible. Projecting ourselves away is one thing, but completely separating from the crystal like Merla did… Her body couldn't even support her anymore. It wasn't meant to. We're all grateful to both you and Keith. We don't even know if we would have survived the disconnect much longer, and Merla definitely wouldn't have.

But that's not important right now.

"Sounds important."

What's important is how you're feeling.

"I'm a little drowsy and I've got a bit of a headache, but otherwise I feel okay."

That's good. Merla and I have been trying to help you both stabilize, but we were worried getting involved too much might just have the opposite effect.

"What do you mean? What happened?"

You b-

The door to the room swished open and the two turned to see Coran walking in. He was looking down at a tablet when he entered and didn't notice them until he bumped into Blue. "Oh, hello, Blue," he said, looking up. "Did you come to check o- Oh, Lance my boy, you're up!"

"Hey Coran."

"How long have you been up?" the Altean set the tablet down next to Lance's knee and checked the device on Lance's arm.

"Only a few minutes."

Coran hummed and entered something into the tablet. "Well, your vitals have improved greatly."

"Vitals? Was I sick?"

"You don't remember?"

"Nothing past Keith and I trying to put Merla in that red crystal. Did something happen?"

"We're not exactly sure. Shiro came to check on you both and found you stumbling out of the Red Lion. You were pretty out of it when he got you here too. Shiro said something about the crystal draining you and you ending up in… wonder-earth?"


"Yes, that's it. You were showing signs of exhaustion along with the disorientation."

"Why weren't we put in pods?"

"That had been the plan. Fortunately I decided to run a scan on you both as the others were putting you in the cryo-suits. It turned out that it wasn't normal exhaustion, but psae-misalignment, which would only have been exacerbated by the pods."

"What's say-misalignment?"

"Psae. It's what happens when those who are able to psae walk do not properly reconnect their psae to their bodies afterwards. Psae walking is… Oh what was that term Pidge used? Astral projection I believe."

"Wait, you're saying Keith and I astral projected?"

"In a sense, yet not quite. From what I understand given your explanation, the crystal tried to draw out your psae, as well as Keith's, but didn't, which left you both with psae-misalignment. Thankfully I caught it so we could start the stabilization before the lack of quintessence within your bodies killed you."

"Wait, killed us? You mean we were dying? "

"Well, your bodies were at least. Your psae's were disconnected enough that they probably would have lived on without you. Though Pidge did show scepticism that your psae would have been able to live on long without your bodies to support them so…"

Lance turned to Blue with wide eyes.

"No need to worry though. As I said, we caught it in time. You two should be as healthy as Syrme worms soon enough!" Coran said, walking over to Keith's side to check his own wrist monitor.

"Is that a good thing?" Lance whispered to Blue.


"How long have we been out?" Lance asked.

"Oh, about a varga and a half."

"A var- What about Allura? The plan!" Lance said, pushing the blanket off himself and jumping to his feet. Blue caught him as his legs gave out beneath him. Coran came over to help him.

"The others are getting ready, but with you two out there is only so much we could do."

"I'll get to my lion."

"Lance, you just woke up and you're leaning on Blue just to stay up."

"I'll be sitting in Blue, I'll be fine."

"Your psae isn't completely realigned. Forming Voltron could cause a set-"

"Coran, we need to rescue Allura and for that, we need Voltron. I have to do this."

"Could you two keep it down over there?" a groggy voice groaned and the three turned to see Keith rolling over on his cot.

"Wake up, mullet. We need to go save Allura."


"Allura?" Keith slowly sat up and turned to look at them. "What about Allura?"

"What's the last thing you remember?" Coran asked as he helped Lance sit down.

"Um… we were on a mission. Shiro, Allura, and Ryou were infiltrating a ship and Merla and I went to investigate some creepy dude. I think we ended up in a fight?"

"You tried to take some of the quintessence they were working on."

"Right. And the guy attacked us and…" Keith's face screwed up as he turned to let his legs hang off the cot. "That's it. What happened?"

"Merla got hurt in the fight, but we fixed her. Now we need to go save Allura."

"You two need rest," Coran huffed as he came to check Keith's band.

"Back up. What happened to Allura? And what happened to Merla?"

"I'll explain on the way," Lance said, pushing himself to his feet. He managed to keep himself up and took that as a good sign. "Let's go!"

"We're going to have to hit hard and fast. We won't have Voltron so Hunk-"

"Yes you will!"

Shiro sun around to see Lance limping in. Blue, Coran, and Keith followed behind him with Blue giving her paladin worried eyes while Coran had Keith's arm over his shoulders. "Lance, Keith, you're up! Coran said you wouldn't be up and about for another few hours a least."

"They shouldn't be," Coran huffed, helping Keith into his chair. "But they refused to listen when I told them to stay laying down."

" Lance refused to listen. He dragged me out of bed before Coran could even get a word out." Keith pointed out.

"We need to help Allura." Lance ignored Keith as he walked up to Shiro's side. "Is the plan still the same?"

"Lance, maybe you should sit down," Hunk suggested as Lance swayed slightly.

"I'm fine."

"You nearly died, idiot. Sit down," Pidge snapped.

"We don't have time to waste. We're well enough for a fight."

"I wouldn't say that," Keith muttered. When Lance glared at him he added, "You stumbled the entire way here and I needed Coran's help just to walk. And who knows what condition Merla's in after what you said happened."

"So what, you think we should not even try to save Allura?"

"We wouldn't be helping her by delivering the universe's only hope to the universe's biggest enemy. Maybe we should hold off on this mission for a bit."

"Keith, that's cold, even for you. What if it was one of us? What if it was me? You wouldn't leave me, would you? Would you?"

"I'm not saying I like the idea. I'm just thinking like a paladin."

"No, you're thinking of yourself because you're too scared to do what's right!"

"We need rest and Merla needs to recover."

"Okay, okay! This isn't helping. We can't just sit here and bicker like this."

"Hunk's right," Shiro said, setting his hand on Keith's shoulder. "Keith, I understand your worries, but we have to help Allura. If you and Lance are too weak -"

"I'm helping," Lance cut in.

"You both are still too unbalanced," Coran said, but he was ignored.

"I'll help if Merla's up for it. I just think it's a bad idea."

"Your opinion is noted -"

"And ignored," Lance interrupted Shiro again.

The Black Paladin sent him a look. "Pidge, run diagnostics on the Red Lion while I catch these two up."

"Keith, Lance, you two doing okay? How's Merla?"


"We're good."

It wasn't a complete lie. Both paladins could feel themselves being drawn back into Voltron's bond every second the lions were fused. They had to make a conscious effort to stay connected enough to stay fused while not being drawn in completely. It was getting easier with time though as the bond lent them the strength to fight the pull and - they assumed - their psae's slowly realigned. The bond was helping Merla as well, though she hadn't yet regained the strength to speak to Keith.

"Good, because there's Zarkon's ship!"

From there, everything fell to pieces, literally. Something foreign invaded Voltron's bond and Keith and Lance felt the invasion like a physical attack. Their entire focus went to not being drawn into the bond and torn to shreds by the invasion. They could feel Merla and Blue at their sides, trying to protect and help them.

Finally a garbled message they could tell wasn't intended for them floated through the bond before Ryou forced them all away and Voltron fell apart.

Merla was angry and Keith was angry and neither were quite sure whose anger was whose.

This was Reject, who had taken advantage of her past paladin's trust and flew them into the Lifelight. Who had killed her former paladin. Who had caused her to be separated from her love and pride for a time that while short compared to their lifetimes, was still far too long. Whose actions led to her cub being separated from his brother-uncle-best friend for far too long.

This was Zarkon, who had taken Shiro from him. Who had slaughtered and enslaved entire planets. Who had wiped out Allura and Coran's home and species and family. Who had stolen Pidge's family from her. Who had kept Merla's lion prisoner.

This was the one who had caused so much pain.

Their anger flared, a lightning storm and wildfire fusing into an inferno that burned into the physical plane in the form of a rail gun. They didn't have the energy to spare, but they spared it anyways.

Ryou curled up deep inside himself. Anger filled him. Anger at Zarkon and his demented wife for daring to overwhelm him and try to turn him against Voltron. Anger at himself for letting them. He'd disengaged Voltron. He'd tossed away his paladin.

He knew that he really hadn't had a choice. Zarkon's intrusion had been hurting all of them, especially their more fragile members, and there was no telling what Zarkon would have done to Shiro through the bond if he hadn't put some distance between them.

But he had still given the betrayer exactly what he had wanted and now Merla and Keith, who were still so weak from the makeshift Voltron Ceremony, were fighting for their lives trying to protect him.

He felt Shiro's presence near and quickly opened for him. He pushed as much shame and guilt along their bond as he could, only to receive concern, relief, and affection in return.

"It's okay. I know he was doing something to you. Let's just get out of here."

Ryou readily agreed.

Keith groaned as he rose from the abyss of unconsciousness. He coughed as his eyes flickered open. "What happened?"

Worry. Anger. Exhaustion. Pain.

He looked around to see that he was in the Red Lion's cockpit. The lights were on, as was the main screen, but everything else was off. Through the main screen, everything was grey. Pale grey crag and mountains. Dusty grey clouds floating across a slate grey sky.

"What's going on?" The last thing he remembered was fighting Zarkon before… He'd been in a fight with Zarkon and Zarkon had knocked them down into… something? That's it. He must have been knocked out, but what happened after? Had they been defeated? It didn't seem like they had been captured since they weren't currently sitting inside a Galra ship.

He reached out for the Red Lion's controls and tried them as he asked, "You okay, Merla?"

Exhaustion. Pain. Concern. Unease. Exhaustion.

"Yeah, I get it. We'll fix you up. We've had a tough day." Days? How long has it been? He rose to his feet and slowly made his way through the cockpit. "Rest up for now. I'm going to look outside."


He patted the wall he was leaning against. "I'm alright. We need to figure out what's going on."

Unfortunately climbing out of the access hatch on top of the Red Lion's head didn't provide any clues on where they were. They were inside a crater, so it was obvious they had crashed, but there were no other signs of where they were or how they'd gotten there.

Sighing, he sat down and closed his eyes. Merla, what's going on?

Unease. Concern.


Keith's eye shot open. "Shiro? Shiro!"

He stood up and scanned the area.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.


He jet packed off the Red Lion and started towards the signal coming from the Black Lion. "Shiro?"

Concern. Annoyance. Unease. Annoyance.

"I'll be back, Merla. I need to find Shiro."

Annoyance. Acceptance. Annoyance. Exhaustion.

"Rest up. Shiro, come in!"

Ryou colored relief as he felt Merla's cub grow closer. He let himself form inside his cockpit and nuzzled up to Shiro's arm. A few moments passed before his paladin groaned.


Shiro opened his eyes and turned to him. He smiled and scratched his head. "Hey buddy."

How do you feel? Ryou sniffed at the wound on Shiro's side and growled.

"Yeah, she did a number on me. Come on, we need to find Keith."

You need to stay still. Keith's coming.

He watched Shiro try to access his systems, to no avail.

"Guess that crash did a number on you, huh?"

Just as it did you. Rest.

"Guess we'll have to do it the hard way."

And they say Merla's cub is the stubborn one. He tried to keep the paladin seated, but didn't want to press too hard and risk hurting him. In the end, he ended up following at Shiro's side as the paladin climbed out of the lion.

"Keith, are you there? Keith?" Shiro sighed as he only got static in return. "I've got to get to higher ground."

Ryou placed himself in front of Shiro and glared at him. Go. Rest.

"Ryou, knock it off. Keith and Merla were both bad off even before the mission. There's no telling what condition they're in now after their fight with Zarkon and that crash. We need to find them."

Keith is on his way and Merla is resting, as you should be, Ryou grumbled and shoved a wave of concern and exasperation at the young man.

"I know, but we need to check on Keith first."

He huffed and pressed up to Shiro's uninjured side so he could lean against him. They made their way along a narrow path that led up along the walls of the gorge Ryou had crashed in until Keith's voice finally cut through the static.

"Shiro, are you there? Answer me!"

"Keith. I'm here. Keith," Shiro replied, finally letting Ryou lower him to the ground.

"Shiro, it's Keith."

"Keith, Keith, I'm here. I'm okay."

"Shiro, you made it."

"It takes more than a glowing alien wound, a fall from the upper atmosphere, and crashing into a hard pan surface, at what I'm guessing is about 25 meters per second squared, to get rid of me. How are you?"

"A little unsteady still, but not anywhere as bad as when Lance and I first woke up. Merla's down though. Pidge and Hunk are going to need to take a look at her when we get back." There was a moment's pause, then, "Wait, what wound?"

"It's nothing."

Ryou gave a loud growl.

Either Keith heard it or he was equally as unconvinced, because he responded with, "Hang on, I'm coming."

There was a clicking growl and the two turned to see a pack of creatures climbing across Ryou's metallic form.

"On second thought, you'd better hurry."

Ryou helped Shiro to his feet and they started to move away.

"Shiro, what happened?"

"There's several creatures."

Ryou's ear flicked and he turned to see another of the creatures climbing up towards them. He placed himself between the creature and Shiro with a low growl and felt Shiro freeze next to him.

The creature responded with a snarl of it's own, which gathered the attention of the others. He swiped at the creature to get it to back off some then turned to look at the others.

"Ryou," Shiro called. Once he got the liger's attention, he slid down from the path back to the bottom of the gorge. Ryou followed close behind, shifting into his house cat form when he spotted the small cave Shiro was headed for.

Both scrambled inside just before the creatures reached them. Instead they slammed into the cliff wall, causing the entrance to cave-in.

End Part 5