Chapter 5: Rebirth Of A Legend
In the court of Planet Galra, King Zarkon sat upon his throne, and his high witch advisor, Haggar, kneeled before him on the floor below.
"What could be taking so long?" he wondered. "How hard is it to find five measly humans on a planet I supposedly wiped clean of sentient life fifteen years ago?"
"Someone may have survived all this time, and now is sheltering them," Haggar offered. Zarkon growled at the suggestion. "It is only a thought; perhaps we should send a robeast to Arus?"
"A robeast? Why? Commander Yurak is handling things on Arus well enough, if slowly, and your precious little apprentice, Sakura, stands at his side to assist him with her own magic skills," Zarkon queried; he himself had ordered Sakura on the mission, after all. "Do you mean to tell me you no longer think them up to this simple task?"
"No, my liege, I do not," Haggar replied. "But I do sense a foreboding. I merely suggest to make doubly sure of our steps, as we have always done in the past." She didn't add that her magical senses had given her an unsettling partial vision, unclear but to give her the impression of something old now stirring from its ancient rest.
"Very well," Zarkon agreed, then rose to his feet. "Send a robeast to Planet Arus immediately!" he commanded. Quickly, one of the mightiest beasts was selected, placed in a fast transport craft, and blasted into space toward the planet Arus.
"WHAT?" Yurak snapped as the ship's sensor officer relayed the information and an image of the launched vessel was put on the main screen to confirm the report. "Is this really how little faith King Zarkon has in me! I don't need a robeast for this! I'll find the escaped space explorers before it even arrives!"
"It does seem a little overkill," Sakura admitted as she watched the craft on the monitor. She couldn't help but think it looked not unlike a red coffin, which seemed an odd choice of design to her. But then, most of the Galran designs seemed to be intended to give impressions of oncoming death, clearly to intimidate the soon to be conquered.
Yurak's ship arrived at the desert area in good time, and the ground troops were released.
"All troops, find the five humans or their remains, and do it quickly! Anything that moves is your enemy, so fire without mercy!" Yurak roared his orders as the troops disembarked onto the surface of planet Arus. Sakura carefully glanced at her angry friend.
"Isn't that a bit much?" she asked. Even as she did, the first shots were fired, wiping out a few unfortunate snakes that had tried to avoid the noisy soldiers by slithering away from their concealing shrubs and stones.
"Hardly. It's not like there's anything important still living on this planet," Yurak replied. "In fact, I think it's time for a more hands on approach!" With that he left the bridge, Sakura following after him.
"Gotten kind of testy, hasn't he?" Spinner mused from her shoulder.
"Maybe," Sakura said. "But I can kinda understand it; it is a little annoying to think King Zarkon doesn't trust us to do this without any extra help." Spinner just lightly rolled his eyes, not entirely convinced.
They soon reached the main hangar and joined the next wave of troops as they departed the command ship, Yurak and Sakura riding atop one of the Skull Tanks, Sakura to Yurak's right, several Star Cutters flying air cover overhead. The sands were blowing, so Sakura used her magic to make a quick, if temporary, hood to wear over her head to keep the sands out of her hair and eyes, Spinner quickly snuggling himself inside it as well. They moved forward quickly and mercilessly, Sakura noticing a few troops carrying sensor equipment to scan further into the ground, in the event the human explorers were hidden in an underground cave or sinkhole, or were just simply buried. Yurak seemed to get more agitated as the minutes ran, rather than calming down.
"Hear me, ground forces, I brings the orders of King Zarkon, Emperor of the Galra Empire, himself!" he bellowed, a personal com on his collar transmitting his words to everyone on the ground. "Find the escaped human slaves! If dead, drag back their carcasses; if alive, haul them in, and we'll dismember them for daring to try and flee from us!"
"I'm pretty sure King Zarkon wants to have that done back in the court so he can watch," Sakura commented.
"You really want to make him any more annoyed about all this than he already is?" Spinner asked her.
"I'm more worried about Zarkon getting more annoyed at us," Sakura responded.
"Oh, good point," Spinner admitted. The ships and troops fired some more, blasting rocks and other desert animals that made the mistake of twitching. And then...two soldiers in the distance suddenly twitched and fell in a slump to the ground, a small form "assisting" one of them in falling with a flying kick. The small fighter fired a few more shots from his gun, bringing down three more soldiers before they finally started shooting back, the small enemy diving behind some rocks for cover.
"Oh, think you're clever, do you?" Yurak roared. "Kill him! Or I'll have you tossed to the robeast for practice when it arrives!"
"Hm?" Sakura stared at the form, then waved her wand, yanking a pair of square shaped hi-tech binoculars from a nearby trooper, floating them through the air and into her hands so she could use them to get a better look at the attacking enemy. She blinked. The outfit was decidedly different, some kind of skin tight spandex combat suit with green colored hard plastic shoulders, green boots, a black belt around the waist with a gold belt buckle, a green "v" collar, and a solid green helmet, but the one wearing it was definitely him!
"It's the little one!" she exclaimed happily. "He survived!"
"And if he did, probably so did the other four," Yurak found himself grinning again. This job was starting to look up again. Sakura then grabbed his com, Yurak only able to blink and give out a simple, "Huh?"
"Change of orders!" Sakura bellowed into the com. "Take that little human alive! Break his limbs if you have to, but I want him back on the command ship breathing and with a healthy pulse!" Yurak stared at her, causing her to blink at him blushingly. "So we can take him back for a very public execution before King Zarkon!" she added quickly. Yurak let out a little sigh, and shook his head.
"Fine, I'll have him placed in a spare room, you can take a few minutes to 'play' with him on the way back to Galra, if he lives through this," he said. "Now give that back."
"I...I...I...here," she handed the com back to Yurak as she blushed, not really wanting to respond to his last statement. As they spoke, the battle was engaged, and the little human actually did quite well, taking down several additional soldiers and dodging various laser fire from both troops and Star Cutters, the latter being the far more impressive! He made use of what cover he could, and eventually was surrounded...
Pidge, the human in question, was beginning to doubt his jump-out-and-attack plan's veracity. He wasn't sure how many Galran foot troops he'd managed to take out before being forced into the small crevice to take cover, but he could hear dozens, if not more, coming up on his location, and that wasn't even taking the multiple Star Cutter one-person crafts currently in the air that were coming at him as well into account.
"I wonder what was with that sudden shift in orders?" he pondered, having heard it bellowed out from one of the Galran soldiers' personal coms while he had been attempting close combat. He risked a glance from his position at the Skull Tank carrying the leader, whom he recalled was called Yurak on the slave ship that had hauled them to Planet Doom, and this time took a little better note of the person either sitting or standing, he couldn't quite tell which, next to him. If he was standing, he wasn't very tall, Pidge would hazard not a hell of a lot taller than himself, really, and he, or more likely she from the sound of the voice on the coms, was wrapped in a black cloak, a hood covering their head and hiding it from view so he couldn't really make out a face from where he was.
"Apparently he or she has a fair amount of clout in the ranks not to have the order change questioned, whoever they are," Pidge mused to himself. "Wish I knew who that was, I don't remember a creep my size among the bad guys on the slave ship." Just then a few shots came unnervingly close, and his musings came to quick end as he ducked back down and had to grudgingly admit to himself that he was outnumbered and outgunned. He pulled the gold personal comlink that doubled as his belt buckle and called back to the castle and his commander, Keith, for immediate assistance. But mere moments after making contact and admitting his blunder, another shot rang out from a Star Cutter that smacked the stone near him, blasting it to bits and knocking him forward.
Realizing he had no time left, Pidge switched off the com and returned it to his belt while dashing away as fast as he could.
Sakura watched the action through her binoculars, Yurak having acquired a pair of his own, and was a little displeased that her command to take the human alive was being ignored. She remained impressed with the human boy, though, as he dashed madly across the rocks to avoid their troops and continued to manage to get off a few shots of his own, eliminating a couple more soldiers.
"Whoa, how many of our troops has that one little guy taken out now?" she asked aloud.
"About seventeen or eighteen. We'll get an accurate count later," Yurak growled in reply. "What are you idiots doing out there? It's one scrawny little human! Get him, already! Alive if possible, dead is once again permissible if necessary!"
"Hey!" Sakura snapped, glaring up at him.
"He's caused enough damage!" Yurak growled back. "If he lives, you can have him for a while. If he doesn't, deal!" Sakura huffed her annoyance, looking away, not really wanting to admit he had a point. Spinner leaned in to peak through her binoculars.
"Nimble little fellow, isn't he?" he commented.
"Hm?" Sakura turned back to glance through the binoculars again to see what he meant, just in time to see the human boy dodge a few more shots as he dashed along the edges of a small canyon, only now it was clear his left leg had suffered a minor blow as he was favoring his right leg. A few moments later a lucky shot grazed his shoulder and he fell forward into the canyon itself. A couple moments later three soldiers opened fire on the rock pillars overlooking the canyon, bringing them crashing down into the canyon below.
"Well?" Yurak grumbled.
"Buried, sir. No way he survived," one of the soldiers reported over the com. "Returning to main formation now."
"Darn it," Sakura moaned, then glanced up at Yurak again. "Cause you know Zarkon's gonna be upset he didn't get to watch him be dismembered," she added, a slight blush on her cheeks. "I wasn't really interested in him at all."
"Uh-huh," Yurak grinned. "Whatever makes you feel better, Sakura." He turned to look out ahead again. "You do have a point about Zarkon, though." The battalion had just started to move forward when a noise, like a low roll of thunder through the ground, was heard in the distance.
"Hm? What's that?" Spinner asked. Yurak and Sakura looked through their binoculars again in the direction of the noise, which was growing louder, closer, with each passing moment.
"What's this?" Yurak echoed Spinner's query as he spied what was coming toward them. There were four of them, one red, one blue, one green, one yellow, the shapes differing slightly, the yellow one bearing a cannon atop its back, but all were made of the most sleek and shining metal, and all four most definitely resembled -
"Lions?" Sakura blinked, her face puzzled. "They're...lions?" Even from this distance she could tell they were powerful, and she could feel a magic radiating off these mechanical beasts, magic far older than her aged master; and yet, it had a feeling of having just awoken from a deep slumber.
"Fire, you fools! Fire!" Yurak roared the command, and weapons began to do so in the direction of the four lions. The first volley missed, hitting the ground in front of the lions, throwing up a cloud of ash and fire – that the lions dashed right out of as though they hadn't even noticed! And then the yellow lion launched through the air, right at the Skull Tanks! Yurak and Sakura both gave out a scream of shock, then Yurak turned, scooped up Sakura under his left arm, and dove off the tank, making a mad dash to escape along with several of the nearby soldiers.
A moment later the yellow lion collided with the vacated tank, smashing it and causing it to explode apart. The lion then turned and with one mighty mechanical paw swatted another tank aside into two more, destroying all three! At the same time the green lion tore apart several more tanks, the red lion trod right over several soldiers, crushing them under, well, paw, and the blue lion also leapt into the air and tore apart a Star Cutter with it jaws before coming back to the ground!
"What the hell are they?" Yurak yelled as he ran.
"You're asking me?" Sakura screeched in his arm, so in shock herself at the sudden turn of events that she hadn't even thought to use her magic to make herself lighter, and thus easier for Yurak to carry, not that he seemed to be noticing, such was his current level of adrenaline.
"Can we possibly figure it out after we get back to the command ship?" Spinner inquired, desperately trying not sound as panicked as he really was. Meanwhile, the battle, such as it was, continued. The ground troops were effectively routed, but the air support proceeded to regroup and attacked in formation, succeeding in momentarily pushing the green lion back. A moment later the yellow lion fired a rocket from its back canon, the red lion released a blast of raging fire from its jaws, and the blue lion shot energy blasts from its tale, rendering all but one Star Cutter in the formation into scrap. The green lion then leapt through the air and personally smashed the final airborne ship. The battle was indeed going in the lions' favor.
But the blast of fire had carried special significance for Sakura, who found herself thinking of her favorite story over the years, the one of a mighty robot imbued with magic that dared to challenge a space goddess.
"Could...could it possibly be...could they be pieces of..." she whispered to herself.
"Hm?" Spinner blinked at her.
"Huh?" she looked at him. "Oh, nothing, just thinking."
"Oh, okay," he said. "About what?" A piece of debris smacked down nearby, startling him. "Never mind, I'll ask later!"
A few moments later they reached the command ship and dove inside, along with everyone they still had. Yurak stalked straight to the bridge, not at all happy. Once there he took a brief breath to attempt to compose himself a little.
"All stations, prepare for immediate launch! I want us off the ground, ASAP!" he ordered. Several officers went to work getting it done, but he noticed a couple staring at him oddly. "What?"
"Um, Yurak?" Sakura piped up. "I think you can put me down now."
"Huh?" he blinked, turning to his right arm, where he was finally starting to notice he held something rather heavy, and blinked again at seeing Sakura still being held by him around her waist. "Oh! Right, sorry." He quickly set her back down on her feet, Sakura standing up and giving herself a quick dusting off and removing her magically created hood. "Weird, I don't recall picking you up."
"Probably on reflex when we all, well, uh, ran like scared children," Spinner suggested. Sakura scowled at him, and Yurak gave an annoyed sigh.
"Sometimes, Spinny, you're a little too blunt," he grunted.
"Spinny?" Spinner glared in annoyance.
"Uh, Commander," one of the officer's piped up.
"Yes?" Yurak glanced down at him.
"The lion things are headed right for us!" the officer replied.
"Oh, hell..." Yurak and Sakura chimed in-sync.
"Launching now, sir!" another officer said, and the command ship launched into the air, kicking up enough sand and dust outside the ship to momentarily slow the approaching lions.
"Finally, some good news!" Yurak grinned, and hit the ship-to-planet loudspeakers, feeling a need to gloat. "Fools," he roared at the four lions. "Did you really think we'd let you destroy the pride of the Galran fleet? Hahahahaha!" he laughed cruelly.
"Commander Yurak, the robeast is now arriving from planet Galra," an officer reported.
"What? Where?" Yurak asked, and it was brought up on the main screen, the red coffin-like ship plunging through the atmosphere toward the ground below.
"No offense, Yurak," Sakura commented, "But now I'm kinda glad they sent that." Yurak hated to agree with her, but she was right. In the end a robeast really had been necessary, after all. And then, as if to pour salt into the wound in his pride, Haggar herself appeared on the screen, communicating from Galra.
"Commander Yurak, you can let the robeast take it from here," she stated. "I hope all is well."
"Not really," Sakura replied first. "It was going alright at first, but then we got counterattacked! And mama Haggar, it was lions!"
"Lions?" Haggar blinked.
"Yeah! Four huge mechanical space lions!" Sakura said, and rose her staff, creating a quick illusion of the enemy. "And the red one spat fire at one point! Could these be four of the five...you know..." Haggar stared intently at the illusion of the four lion-ship opponents.
"Maybe...," she commented quietly. "If they are...to think, all this time, on Arus..."
"Okay, could someone please fill me in?" Spinner asked, feeling more than a little confused. Yurak couldn't blame him, he was feeling the same way.
"Later," Haggar decided. "Release and enlarge the robeast!"
"But..." Yurak quipped, feeling more than a little flustered.
"It is the order of King Zarkon!" Haggar declared. That was enough, though it didn't stop Yurak from letting out another frustrated sigh.
"You heard her, get that robeast into action!" Yurak commanded.
Outside, the coffin ship finally hit the ground, and the command ship swerved about and fired a single beam upon it, charging it and the contents within with energy, the lions pausing as if unsure what to make of this new turn of events. A moment later the ship was torn apart as the robeast within broke free and grew to gargantuan size, topping at nearly eighty feet. It was demonic looking with bat-like ears and small bat-like "wings" coming off its shoulders as well as two additional bat-like "fins" on the back of its legs near its feet. Its skin was a brownish gray, it had no visible nose on its bald, roundish head that sported a black raised stripe across the center of the top, red eyes like a devil, and it also had two large drill-like protrusion from where its nipples should have been. Its wrists were adorned by a pair of white gauntlets, and a belt was wrapped around its waist, a pair of fused together white tubes on each side. "Monstrous" was almost too kind a word to describe it.
It roared at its opponents, which were now far smaller than itself. The four lions hesitated only a moment longer, then broke up and attacked the robeast from all four sides, the red and green jumping up and latching onto its arms while the yellow and blue leaped at the legs. The robeast roared, whether in pain or annoyance one could not tell, and quickly shook the green one off its left arm and then swatted off the yellow one before simply kicking the blue one away. The lions immediately regrouped, and made a concentrated effort for the legs, the three lions firing several weapons each, and the robeast grunted in pain from the impacts and fell to one knee. Apparently thinking they had it won, the lions charged forward fearlessly, and the robeast roared in annoyance, swinging its right arm forward, hard, finally dislodging the red lion that had still been hanging in there and sending it crashing into the other lions, knocking it, the green one, and the yellow one down hard. It then swung one hand and swatted the blue lion one more time, flipping it backwards, all four lions now lying in a small pile before the robeast.
The robeast rose back to its feet and roared in triumph, the lions now just laying there, not so much as a twitch. The robeast roared again and waited, but still the four lions didn't move, all signs of "life" having seemingly fled. The wind picked up, swirling the sand with it, as the robeast roared once more and then turned and started scanning around the area, seeking more opponents.
"Quick, sedate that thing!" Yurak barked his order, not wanting the robeast to choose the command ship as its next target. The bridge crew sprang into action, a second beam quickly being used on the robeast, which immediately settled down, dropping to the ground and passing out for the time being. Yurak sighed again, stroking his brow. "Everyone can stand down for now. I'm going to compose a report to send back to King Zarkon. Hopefully he won't send an execution squad."
"Yeah," Sakura agreed. "Um, Yurak, if it's alright, I'm gonna hit the mess for a quick bite of, well, probably slop." Yurak nodded in agreement, understanding that the adrenaline had most likely burned away most of her energy. He himself was feeling a little hungry, and would most likely hit the mess himself, later.
"There's probably something other than slop down there," he said. "Good luck, I'll see you later." Sakura nodded back.
"Thanks," she replied, and departed the bridge, heading toward the command ship's mess hall.
"Oh, and someone run the numbers, I wanna know just how badly the small human and those lion ships hit us before the robeast took over," Yurak added. A few officers immediately began work on compiling a full after battle report for him to add to his own.
"So, Sakura, what were you thinking those lions were part of?" Spinner asked his mistress from her shoulder as they headed down the hall.
"Hm?" she blinked. "Oh, that. It doesn't matter now," she shrugged it off, then smirked lightly. "Seriously, if they had been part of him, you'd think they'd have done more damage to the robeast before they lost, right?"
"It would really help if I knew what you were talking about," Spinner admitted, hoping she would finally tell him what she thought the lions were part of.
"Forget about it; food!" Sakura declared, reaching the mess hall and aiming for the dispensary area. Spinner finally sighed in defeat, making a mental note to ask Haggar what the mystery was all about, because, frankly, he was starting to get a little annoyed at his mistress's dodging of the subject.
The report was put together in relative good time, and the loss report came in as well – eighteen Star Cutters, nine Skull Tanks, and nearly seventy soldiers all told had been lost in the battle, roughly fifteen soldiers to the small human alone! Yurak felt more certain that his career, and his life, would be forfeit the moment he sent the report, but also knew that if he didn't send it someone else would. He transmitted it off to planet Galra, and quietly prayed for both his own survival, and, though he wasn't sure why he cared to do so, Sakura's good fortune after Zarkon blew his top and had him killed.
Meanwhile, Sakura restored her blood sugar levels with an almost decent meal in the mess hall, and then hit the ship's officer's lounge to drop onto a couch and grab some rest after an unexpectedly exciting day, the most exciting she could remember having in years! Her mind was still occupied, though, by the existence of the four lions. Just what were they, where had they come from, and despite their performance against the robeast, could they still be parts of...him?
Spinner also took in a quick bite to eat, and joined his mistress in the lounge for some rest. Unlike Sakura, Spinner simply opted to curl up on a foot stool and take a nap.
Outside the ship, a small sand storm whipped up, forcing the command ship to stay in the air until it was over, lest it get buried, or at least partially, in the desert sands. The lions and robeast were not so lucky, disappearing beneath the expanse of the desert floor. The robeast was of little concern to the Galran forces, though; it was equipped with an implanted tracking device, so they could find it whenever they needed to, and it was currently in a state of suspended animation, thus eliminating any worries of the creature suffocating to death before it was reawakened, if such an act was even required before returning to Galra.
Unbeknownst to the evil forces, and luckily for the lions, the small Pidge had in fact survived the attempt at burying him alive under rock, pulled to safety into an underground cave by Arusian natives at the last second, and at that very moment was being lead through an underground tunnel back to the Castle of Lions. The Arusian night fell, and all remained quiet...
On planet Galra, Zarkon received the report, and while none too pleased about the loss of men and machinery, was satisfied that the belatedly sent robeast had handled the problem quickly and efficiently, and thus decided to be in a "forgiving" mood, for now. He was much more interested in where those lions had come from in the first place.
"Haggar," Zarkon spoke aloud, standing in front of his throne in thought. "How is it possible that a planet I wiped out fifteen years ago could send these space lions out to attack my forces? Tell me, witch, with your sorceress sight, how such a technological marvel went unnoticed back then?"
"Yes, sire, very good questions," Haggar replied. "I would surmise that the people of Arus were unaware of the lions' existence back then, or were simply unable to deploy them at that time. My dear apprentice even thought for a fleeting moment when we last spoke that these lions may even be part of a greater whole, but if my research into the particular historical titan in question is even remotely correct, then a piece is in fact still missing, hence the robeast's success." She sat in her usual seat on the raised dais, stroking her familiar Cova in her lap.
"So you're telling me some Arusian scum we overlooked back then has learned about and/or figured out how to deploy these lions since then? And that there's a fifth one still waiting to be unleashed?" Zarkon growled. Cova gave an irritated yowl, the feline sensing the same foreboding as his mistress. "That cat has more brains than you!" Zarkon snapped, his frustrations beginning to raise anew.
"Cova merely senses, as I do, a dark shadow looming in the path of the empire," Haggar said. "Sire, I fear that the lions' appearance so soon after the five humans who escaped us reached Arus cannot be a coincidence. If I and Sakura are indeed right about these lions, then in their complete form they may be semi-autonomous, but as separate lions this is less likely. No, I believe those lions may in fact also be ships, and as such, require...pilots."
"WHAT?" Zarkon roared.
"Yes, I believe the humans survived, and were given access to these lions by Arusians that still live, and if they somehow managed to survive the fight with the robeast, and manage to find their missing friend should he still live, and gain the fifth and final lion, an ancient titan might rise again."
"If they survived the battle, if the one who attacked alone escaped alive, if they find this fifth lion," Zarkon growled. "A lot of 'ifs', Haggar. And what do you and that sniveling little witch wannabe think these lions might be part of? Tell me!" Haggar looked him evenly in the eyes, and told him exactly what he didn't want to hear:
"Voltron," she said simply. "Sadly, I can divine nothing more at present, and even that is at best an educated guess, as I have said."
"Voltron?" Zarkon's eyes widened, his mind conjuring the fairy tale he once heard as a boy long ago, and had heard again during his youth as a soldier, spoken over a campfire mockingly due to the soldiers having heard some recently captured prisoners muttering about it returning to save the galaxy, if not the universe, from evil. "You think that story is actually true?" His mind raced, and a decision was made, Zarkon thrusting his scepter out in front him. "Send word to Yurak, he is to search Arus thoroughly, and destroy anyone he finds to make sure none can attack us from that planet again! He is to leave absolutely nothing, understand! And if he does discover those escaped humans still daring to cheat death, then he is to bring me back their heads, and nothing else!"
"Sire," Haggar acknowledged the order, and rose from her seat to fulfill it, carrying Cova with her in her arms.
Yurak received his orders within twenty minutes, and while relieved Zarkon was not ordering his death, quickly moved to get Zarkon's order carried out. The sandstorm had passed, and the command ship had landed once again, searchlights lighting the area as troops moved about and Star Cutters ran perimeter patrols in the air.
"To all imperial forces, the operation is to begin the moment the sun comes up!" Yurak bellowed over the ship's intercom and external loudspeakers, all hearing the commands. "You are to search the planet Arus thoroughly, and slaughter anyone who would dare to oppose the mighty Galra Empire! None are to be left alive! And keep an eye out for those space lions, in case the robeast didn't destroy them as thoroughly as we originally thought!" He sat back in his command seat, taking a breath. He glanced to his side as the personnel on the bridge worked to carry out their duties, and noticed the space was empty. "Where's Sakura?" he asked himself aloud.
"I believe I saw her resting in the officer's lounge, sir," answered one officer who thought he'd been addressed. Yurak glanced at him for a moment, then nodded and rose from his seat.
"Make sure everything gets ready," he ordered. "Remember, we begin at first light!"
"Yes, sir!" the officer replied with a quick salute, and returned to work. Yurak strolled off the bridge, and headed over to the lounge. He'd gotten a quick meal of his own earlier, and had returned straight to the bridge at the time, but now a quick spot of rest in the lounge sounded like a good idea to him, too. Upon entering he saw that Spinner was still asleep on his stool, and his mistress was equally dead to the world on a couch. He watched her for a moment as her chest slowly rose and fell with her quiet breathing, pondering his own actions in regards to her.
Ten years ago, he knew he wouldn't have glanced twice at a human child for any reason. They were of no importance or interest to him in the slightest. When Haggar had brought this one into the castle, claiming her as her apprentice, he had accepted it; of everyone who lived in the castle, only King Zarkon would ever counter the old witch on anything. And still, other than to include her in his list of known authorized personnel in Castle Doom, again he considered her of little to interest to him, and important only in that she "belonged" to Haggar.
And yet, as the years had passed, this one little human had actually managed to befriend him, always meeting him with a smile and an air of happiness, and even after years of indoctrination of the Galran philosophy, of Haggar's no doubt dark teachings, Sakura still somehow retained an aura of kindness that was arguably at odds with the darkness of her education. Somehow, she had actually become more important than just because of her relationship to Haggar, and had become interesting in a way he could not readily explain. Nor could he even begin to explain how or even why this had happened at all.
He stepped forward, taking off his red cape and draping it over the slumbering child like a blanket, then took a seat in a chair opposite, watching her as she rolled slightly in her sleep. He reflected on how he had grabbed her in the panicked run from the space lions earlier that day without even realizing it. He knew that once, years ago, he'd have abandoned her in the same situation, and most likely would have suffered Haggar's wrath for it. And yet, now, he hadn't even stopped to think about it as he grabbed her. And he couldn't honestly say that it was because of any fear of what Haggar might or might not have done.
He knew he wasn't getting soft, he still thought nothing of killing his enemies and those of the empire, and even less of torturing and killing the slaves that were taken to serve him and his people, the children included. So why? Why did this one little human girl cause him to do things so...out of character for him? It wasn't like she was his, and it wasn't like he had any true responsibility to her, save his oath to get her back to Haggar in one piece. And why had he sworn that? At the time he hadn't thought about it, but now that he was stopping to do so, he realized he had had no reason to, and yet he had done it.
Yurak leaned back into his chair, letting out a quiet sigh, closing his eye and switching off his cybernetic one. These musing were going to drive him to distraction, he realized. Best to let it go for now. He could always figure it out later, once the situation at hand had reached a conclusion. He allowed himself to rest and relax after the arduous day, letting all of the stress ease out of him, and didn't even notice when he, too, fell asleep.
The hours passed, and just before dawn, the sand of the desert floor stirred, and then erupted in four places as the four lions blasted out of the sand and flew away into the air, back towards the castle and their hidden lairs. A watch officer noted the incident and put it down in the ship's log, choosing not to disturb Commander Yurak just yet as the lions had fled in retreat rather than renew their previous attack. Besides, he reasoned, the Commander was probably catching some quick sleep so as to be fresh and ready for the operation tomorrow.
A few more hours passed, and dawn broke on the Arusian desert. In the command ship, Yurak woke to the sound of someone tapping nearby, and turned to see a soldier at the lounge door, lightly knocking on the frame.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Morning, sir, dawn has arrived," the soldier reported. "All are ready to begin the operation, as ordered." Yurak quickly shook off the remnants of sleep and rose to his feet.
"Excellent, we will begin immediately," he stated, when their attention was drawn by a gasp from Sakura, who had just woken up herself, jumping up to a sitting position, as if startled by something. "Something wrong, Little Witch?" Sakura glanced over to him, as if only just realizing he was in the room. Spinner also began to stir from his sleep with a simple, "Hm?"
"I think it was one of my prophetic dreams," Sakura admitted.
"Prophetic dreams?" Yurak asked, having heard rumor of her having such things in the castle, but till now had not paid witness, not that there had been much to see.
"What did you see?" Spinner asked.
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "Like usual it was...unclear, and dark... I saw some kind of being in shadow, holding a sword that reflected the brightest light, looming over Galra and all our ships, and I felt scared, yet...warmed, all at once."
"What does that mean?" Yurak inquired, unable to decipher the dream in the slightest.
"I think...it's an omen," Sakura said, rubbing the remaining sleep from her eyes. "And it feels...foreboding..."
"Hm," Yurak thought for a moment, then turned to the soldier who had come to fetch him, and had stayed and heard all. "Get the word out, everyone is to keep alert, a new enemy may be looming on the horizon that we haven't seen yet."
"Sir?" the soldier asked.
"Never question the foresight of a witch, young or old, no matter what form it chooses to take," Yurak stated. "That's why Zarkon keeps her and her master around. Now go! I'll be on the bridge presently."
"Sir!" the soldier snapped to attention, saluted, and quickly departed to tend to his duties. Yurak turned back to Sakura, who was noticing the red cape sitting over her legs, the top lightly crumpled in her lap.
"Um?" she pointed at it, and Yurak stepped forward and retrieved it, returning it to his shoulders.
"You looked a little cold," Yurak offhandedly explained as he secured the cape to his uniform, and when she continued to stare at him confused, he added, "I don't really know, okay?"
"Okay," Sakura accepted, and got to her feet, stretching before raising one hand to summon her staff back to her from the floor. Spinner flew up to her shoulder and they all left the lounge. They moved quickly to the bridge, where a soldier had set up a quick breakfast for them near Yurak's command chair, which they quickly partook of as Yurak had the ship returned to the air for the coming operation.
"We are to scour the entire planet!" Yurak stated. "By order of King Zarkon himself, you are to kill every living thing on Arus, so that none may attack us from this planet again! Kill everyone!"
"Yes, sir!" the bridge crew chimed, as did a thousand voices over the communications system from the Star Cutters around them.
"The whole planet?" Sakura asked. "Guess he didn't like the report."
"Could have been worse," Yurak commented, and Sakura could only nod at that.
The command ship and Star Cutters flew across the planet's surface, seeking their prey. Some Arusians began to emerge from the caves to seek food for breakfasts of their own, only to be fired upon from above, sending them into a panicked flight back into the caves. One Star Cutter fired straight into one of the caves itself, a fiery blast erupting backwards out of the cave a moment later. The frightened people who survived the first volleys ran deeper in, moving through the tunnels toward the castle, even as the Galran ships continued to fire relentlessly against everything in their path, destroying mountains and more as they went.
From their position on the bridge, Yurak and Sakura watched all calmly and without a hint of concern for those below.
"Should we wake the robeast?" Spinner inquired.
"No," Yurak replied. "We won't need him for this."
"Eh?" an officer blinked at his console. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Yurak asked, getting an unpleasant tingling sensation up his spine.
"Some kind of odd energy reading just popped up on the scanner, sir, from near the old castle," the officer reported.
"The castle?" Yurak and Sakura blinked, and even Spinner was starting to get a nervous little chill.
And what, pray tell, was happening at the castle at that moment, one might ask? The four lions were being re-deployed, but this time would be different, for at that very moment the lion statue on the tall pedestal at the end of the bridge cracked, then shattered away, revealing the fifth mighty lion hidden within, it's red "wings" folding onto its back as it roared with life again. It quickly joined its brothers, and marched forwards against the Galran fleet.
"Huh? What's this?" Yurak blinked at the main screen as a dust storm suddenly formed ahead of them, and moved in their direction. "Magnify!" he ordered, and the command was immediately obeyed, revealing the lions returning for another round. They were all there – red, yellow, blue, green – but now they had a new companion. "Those lions again? They survived? They must have nine lives." Yurak mused.
"Oh, yes, the sensors monitored the four blasting out of the sand and retreating a few hours ago, sir," the officer who had noted the incident in question reported. "I noted it in the ship's log."
"WHAT?" Yurak snapped. "Why wasn't I told immediately?"
"Well, you were resting, sir," the officer stumbled. "And like I said, they retreated."
"None the less, I should have been told then they were still alive!" Yurak roared, the officer suddenly seeing a violent end to his career in the near future.
"Or functioning, at least," Sakura agreed. Yurak glanced at her, and added, "Well, they are machines."
"Hm, good point," Yurak conceded, then turned back to the problem at hand. Sakura looked, too, and realized something.
"Wait, there's five of them now," she commented, noting at the head of the small pride a far larger lion, this one black with folded red "wings" on its back and, from what she could see, a clearly bright red blaze, if one could call it that, on its chest.
"So?" Yurak and Spinner asked.
"So, where did number five come from?" she asked back. "And won't it make things harder? I mean, we had enough trouble with just the first four!"
"One more won't make that much difference, not to the robeast!" Yurak declared, smacking the button on his console to send the order to have the creature revived. "And this time, robeast, tear them to shreds! Finish them off completely!" he ordered. Sakura stared at the lions some more, a distinct chill traveling all the way up her spine.
"Can it be...?" she whispered to herself. "Is it really him...?"
Outside, a beam blasted the spot where the robeast was sleeping, and it awoke, bursting from the sands instantly as the command ship and Star Cutters backed off to let it do its work. It roared, and a large sword was blasted out of the command ship's hold, – it was not uncommon for Galran command and war ships to have giant melee weapons on hand for use by giantized robeasts as needed – landing near the beast, which grabbed the blade by the hilt with one hand, lifting it up.
The five lions didn't even hesitate, moving immediately into the fray. The robeast roared at his opponents, and the lions leapt through the air, ramming the robeast in the torso headfirst multiple times; they bounced off each time, the robeast not even fazed. The robeast stomped forward, and the black lion charge again, leaping forward and this time clamping its mighty jaws on the robeast's arm, drawing blood. The robeast shook it off almost immediately, sending it flying back into a rock face, which crumbled under the lion's weight.
"Heh, see," Yurak said, grinning at the sight on screen. "One more hasn't changed a thing!"
"He does seem to be right, Sakura," Spinner agreed. "The robeast is clearly winning." He glanced away from the screen to look at his mistress, noticing for the first time the frozen look of fear on her face. "Sakura?"
"Were they really here, all this time...?" she whispered. "Will they...combine...?"
"Huh?" Yurak and Spinner both stared at her at that comment. "Combine?"
The blue, green, and yellow lions charged and leapt at the robeast again, but the robeast just backhanded and punched them aside. The black lion rebounded, red on his heels. Black leapt again through the air, and this time the robeast snapped a hand out, grabbing the lion by the throat, and kicked red lion back on reflex. The robeast roared, swinging black lion around by its neck, before tossing it, hard, straight into the recovering red lion, knocking them both down.
The robeast charged, brandishing its sword above its head, and swung at the two lions, the lions barely dodging aside in time, the robeast only chopping off a hunk of rock from the rocky formation that had been behind the lions. The robeast blinked only a moment, then roared and stomped toward the two lions again, stabbing at the red lion with its sword; again, the lion barely dodged, but at this point the lions apparently came to a decision.
The pulled back, then charge forward in a different direction, leaping straight into the air in formation, flying high into the sky. The robeast saw them, roared again, and fired several blasts of burning plasma from the gauntlets on its wrists. The flames nailed the lions, causing them to fall from the sky back into the desert sand below.
"Yeah, that's the way!" Yurak smiled excitedly. "See? Nothing to worry about!" He glanced back to Sakura, who was still staring, frozen; her expression still filled with fear. 'She's that worried about those cats?' he wondered. He could only recall ever seeing her that scared once before, the first time she was introduced to the court and had to stand so close to Zarkon; but she had long since learned to handle her feelings about that. So why was this bothering her so much?
"He's right Sakura, it's okay," Spinner tried to reassure his mistress. "The robeast will take care of them." But this time Sakura didn't respond.
The lions shook off their daze, and again leapt into the air, aiming high into the sky. Again the robeast fired its gauntlet plasma blasts, and again scored direct hits. But this time the lions had expected that, and held their flight, riding the burning plasma out, and flew ever higher. The robeast fired again, but this time the plasma bursts missed, the lions now simply too high to reach.
"IT IS HIM!" Sakura screamed, snapping out of her daze suddenly, turning to the bridge crew. "Shoot them down! Don't let them combine into Voltron!" Yurak's and Spinner's eyes widened in shock at her exclamation.
"VOLTRON?" they snapped, a little more shrieking than they meant, and the rest of the bridge crew stared similarly.
"Voltron?" they echoed, feeling more than a little confused. And then, before Sakura could snap at them a second time, a blinding flash of light erupted from the screen as the five lions came together as one.
Within the blaze of light, the red, green, blue, and yellow lions' legs folded up into their bodies, and the black lion's forelegs did likewise, its hind legs sticking out straight behind it, its "wings" unfolding to stick out behind the head. The blue and yellow lions' heads then folded backwards until they formed an "L" shape with their bodies, their tails flipping forward to disappear into their torso like their legs did. The black lion flipped around so it looked like it was on its back, and then the red and green lions flew up and their rears connected onto the black lion at its shoulders, followed by the blue and yellow lion snapping onto the black lion's hind legs; red and blue were on the right, green and yellow on the left.
And then the black lion's head tilted forward until it was perpendicular to the body, and its mouth opened until the lower jaw snapped into the lion's torso, revealing a humanoid face, pale white with a blue stripe across its yellow eyes. At the same time the two gold "ears" of the black lion unfolded outward, giving the new robot's head a pair of "horns", or half formed head blocks. It rose its "hands", the heads of the red and green lions, which roared in challenge, its "feet", the heads of the blue and yellow lions, following suit. The robeast could only stare in surprise and wonder as its new combined opponent came down from the sky back to the ground.
The mechanical titan's chest, now visible, was crimson, a crest at the center below the head. The crest was in the shape of a shield, with a cross over a white vertical stripe, a gold crown symbol over said cross. A black stripe sat at the top of the shield, and squares of blue and red sat to the right of the white stripe, yellow and green to the left, the blue and yellow above the red and green. The giant robot even seemed to be wearing a "belt", three gold horizontal stripes on either side of a "buckle", for a total of six, the "buckle" being a large gold star against a white background inside of a gold frame. It stood, strong, proud, and tall.
After twelve thousand years, Voltron had been reborn!
"It...it's really him..." Sakura stared in shock. "They restored Voltron..."
"That's Voltron?" Yurak asked, unsure of the sudden turn of events. Spinner stayed quiet, now thoroughly riveted to the screen, as were the rest of bridge crew.
The robeast roared and rose its sword up in challenge at its new opponent, charging forward to continue the battle. It swung its sword in a horizontal slash that the robot dodged easily, then the robeast tried to simply stab the robot, but Voltron dodged again. The robeast went for a downward slash, and this time Voltron caught its arm with his left hand, and judo flipped the robeast into the sand where it expertly caught itself and rolled back into a sitting position, grabbing the tubes on either side of its waist and firing four rockets from them at Voltron, the robeast's sword landing tip first in the sand next to it. The rockets hit dead on...and did nothing.
Furious, the robeast got to its feet and fired another volley of plasma blasts from its gauntlets. For a moment, Voltron lit up in flame, and then went out again, the mighty robot still undamaged. The robeast grabbed its sword back up, roaring in defiance, but things were already obvious – the situation had completely reversed!
As if to punch that point home further, Voltron rose into the sky, its hands and feet roaring at the robeast, and then the hands clanged together, pulling apart a second later, energy filling them and solidifying into a mighty blade of Voltron's own, the robot pulling back slightly with the sword in its right hand, sending a roared challenge at its opponent one last time from its left.
"What...what happened?" Yurak stared aghast at the turn of events, the robeast suddenly clearly outmatched. And the sudden creation of the new blade did not help matters.
"Wow, he really lives up to his press, doesn't he?" Spinner commented, also in shock at how things had turned around for the enemy in mere moments.
"Is that...yes, it has to be...the Blazing Sword!" Sakura stared, noting that Voltron's challenging stance with sword in hand was exactly like the mysterious silhouette in her dream. "Yurak, I think we should start getting out of here!" she turned to the Commander.
"What? But the robeast..." he commented, still not convinced the battle was lost, though he had to admit to himself he was getting there.
"It's toast! Just get us out of here!" Sakura snapped.
"Uh, guys, he's charging the robeast," Spinner said, drawing their attention back to the main screen and the battle in progress.
The robeast roared one last time, undaunted, and charged, aiming to try and stab Voltron once more. Voltron charged back, swinging its sword upward to deflect the robeast's blade, jumping into the air as it went. Voltron flipped around and dropped, swinging his sword downward, and chopped the robeast's blade in half, slashing the robeast deeply in the process, right down the center from head to hip. Voltron then pulled back, and made one last downward slash, cleaving the robeast in two!
The robeast exploded apart into nothing, and Voltron stood in the blaring sunlight, triumphant!
"Unbelievable...All hands, retreat immediately!" Yurak screamed the order, the bridge crew instantly obeying. The command ship and Star Cutters quickly turned and blasted back into space, on a return course to planet Galra. "How?" Yurak flopped into his seat. "How?"
"I can't believe it," Sakura whispered quietly, having flopped herself to her knees on the floor, her energy having abandoned her in the wake of the defeat. "All this time, right under our nose..."
"You do realize what this means, don't you?" Spinner asked, trying to stay calm.
"Yeah," Yurak and Sakura replied, then stated dourly, "Zarkon's gonna kill us."
And as the Galran ship fled for space, one could have sworn they could hear five human voices joined together in a triumphant cheer, just one word:
Ah, ha! Finished, episodes three and four are reduxed! That actually was a little more challenging than I first expected, but I like what I got. Especially the bridge I created between eps. to explain why the first four lions weren't smashed by the robeast outright when it had the chance, something the anime writers badly overlooked. And yes, I know, the boys are still not yet aware of Sakura's existence, at least not fully, but fear not, that time is coming, and soon.
Next, how to make a new, not trashed castle! Hehe...
LotornoMiko – As to punishment for failing to get them back, you'll just have to wait until next chapter for that answer. As to her interest in Pidge, I'm basically going for a standard kid's crush along the lines of "You! The sultry wretch with the fire in his eyes! Come hither!" This will hopefully be made more clear when I get to the Queen Orla episode...
drake202 – I'm happy I've impressed you, and hope you found Sakura's reaction to the lions and Voltron satisfactory. At present there are no definitive plans for Sakura to be captured/saved and turned to good, though; I'm definitely keeping her on Team Evil til the end of the Omega Comet trilogy(I got plans for that!), and afterward I'm not fully sure myself. In the end it'll mostly depend on whether I decide to include the events of the twenty episodes made specifically for our side of the Pacific pond(and therefor the "Fleet Of Doom" special) or not. Don't worry, I'll make up my mind...eventually...