Relative disclaimers apply.

Chapter 3: The Blood That Finds

Morning light dawned on the capital castles on two different worlds at the same time. The denizens of those twin castles each woke and proceeded to accomplish business as usual, until the discovery of one lead to the contact of the other. No one had expected the extent of turbulence that one soul could create.

"The Blue Lion has been launched!" said Coran, looking down from his place on the raised cylinder of the control room. Keith, Hunk, Pidge, and Allura, who had assembled here for their morning practice routine, expressed varying degrees of surprise. A quick glance at the faces present told that none of them had been responsible. But the lowered handlebar in chute 4 could not be dismissed, nor the absence of the Blue Lion in the lake once Coran focused the castle's external cameras on its resting place.

Keith recovered the quickest and asked, "When did this happen?"

Coran tapped the voluminous keys of the control console. "I'm afraid I can't be certain. The access logs have been encrypted! It will take time to decipher them."

"Then do so."

"Hey, where's Lance?" asked Hunk, directing his gaze at the Voltron leader.

"He went to check to see if Lucia was up yet," Keith replied. He tilted his head slightly in thought. "Lance said something about wanting to know if she'd be interested in watching us practice until her ship is ready."

Allura raised a hand to her mouth, preventing the sudden intake of breath that came with her epiphany. "Do you think that Lucia could have-"

Keith nodded gravely. "Somehow I wouldn't be surprised. She was awfully anxious to find Sven, and she didn't tell us everything that happened to her on her way here. But there's no time to waste speculating about it. No matter who took it, if one of the lions is gone we have to get it back and fast!"

Lance dashed into the control and came to a halt a few feet from the rest of his team. He put his hands on his thighs and bent over panting to catch his breath.

"What took you so long?" asked Pidge. "It doesn't take you that long to find Lucia's room."

Lance sucked in a deep breath, then stood. "Lucia's not there. Neither are those crates she brought with her. And that's not all." He took another breath. "I ran down to the hanger we had her shuttle towed to, and there's something about that Sparrowhawk I think you should know. That shuttle could not have flown here, not the way it is now. Its engine is not even functional and the fuel tank is empty. No matter how good a pilot she is there's no way she can land with a broken engine and absolutely zero fuel. That shuttle's ready for the scrap heap." He waved his hands for emphasis. "There's no way anyone could fix that in a day. We're talking weeks of overhauling here."

"That's impossible!" pronounced Hunk. "Then how did she get here?"

"I'd like to know that too," said Keith. "Whatever it was that let her do that, I'll bet it was in those boxes of hers. That's the only explanation."

"Wait, what's going on?" Lance looked around. "Why are you guys still standing here? I thought you'd already be outside."

"It would appear that Lucia has stolen the Blue Lion," said Coran.

"What! That's crazy! How could she do that? What if Zarkon attacks us!"

Keith nodded. "I know. Let's go get her back. At least we know where she's going."

"Planet Pollux." Hunk punctuated his words by smacking a fist into his open palm.

Keith turned to Allura. "Wait here, Princess. We'll be back soon."

The four male members of the Voltron Force dashed to their respective chutes. As a single unit they leaped for their handlebars and spiraled down to the tunnels leading to their lions.

Allura watched them go, disappointed to be left behind, but understanding that it did not take five to pilot four lions. She looked up at Coran as he lowered the cylinder back to floor level. "I'm not going to sit around and do nothing. Open a communication line between Arus and Pollux. Tell Princess Romelle and Prince Bandor to be ready for the arrival of the Blue Lion and that if it lands its pilot is to be arrested but not harmed."

* * *

Mid-morning shone pleasantly on Pollux, and one scout leaned comfortably on the windowsill of the small wooden cabin that served as his outpost. The place was a refuge from the castle life that discomforted him, but it was within an amiable four kilometers from the palace for when he wanted or needed to visit it.

The radio squawked behind him, but he ignored it. It was set by default to the general alert frequency, but since an accident with the batteries it no longer functioned as it should. He discovered that he could send messages, but anything reaching him in return would be unintelligible. He was supposed to get a replacement soon, but Pollux's poor economy would not allow for that anytime soon. In the meantime, he had no emissary work and had desired a vacation in any case. Romelle had been kind enough to give him the time to collect his thoughts, though she appeared disappointed that he had not chosen to stay in the castle with her.

But how could he? Pilots, navigators, even emissaries were beneath her station. He could not encourage that kind of relationship beyond friendship. He wondered if he should request an ambassador position on Pollux with the Galaxy Alliance. He knew he was young for the occupation, very young, but Pollux being so newly free from Zarkon's control, it had no formal connections with the Alliance. And he as an Alliance citizen with the most knowledge of this planet and its people would be an ideal candidate for ambassador. It would be a difficult job, but he knew how to manage it. His father had done so. The increase in station might impress Romelle too.

A white light streaked down from the sky ahead. He could not be certain of its distance from him, but he had the uneasy feeling it was about to land in the forest not far from him. He lifted a pair of binoculars beside him and trained them on the light. They focused to reveal the Blue Lion of Voltron! But why was it avoiding the castle? Why was there only one lion?

Sensing trouble, he waited until the light disappeared beneath the tree layer then estimated the distance from his cabin to the landing point. He set down the binoculars and ran to his desk. He pulled open a drawer and lifted a laser pistol from it. Though outdated, the weapon was serviceable. It would have to do.

He flung the door to his cabin open and slammed it behind him. There was no need to lock it. Hardly anyone ventured out here and he had nothing of immediate value left inside. He ran around to the side of the cabin where he found his only means of transportation grazing contentedly from where he was tethered.

The black stallion was fit, and one of the fastest horses he had seen on Pollux. He freed the halter rope from the wooden fence and led the stallion around to his shed. There he removed the halter and replaced it with a bridle from inside. The stallion skittered lightly on anxious hooves, but he spoke softly to it, calming the steed. He set the riding saddle on the stallion's back and cinched it firmly into place. He shut the shed's door and swung himself up on the horse's back. He kicked the stallion lightly behind the ribs, goading it into a sprint towards the landed lion.

* * *

Lucia sighed as the Blue Lion touched down in a large clearing. Her landing was by the book and flawless, the sort a flight instructor wished of all students. Flying the lion was not much different than piloting any of the Alliance fighter class ships.

She had purposely avoided landing near Pollux's castle, knowing that the time it took to make her journey here might have allowed the Voltron Force to contact the Princess Romelle they spoke of last night. Lucia removed her helmet and ran her hand wearily through her hair. The lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll on her. She would have to find Sven soon, let him continue this flight for her so that she could sleep.

Lucia popped open the hatch to the cockpit and climbed out. She kept the laser she had taken from Allura's uniform in her right hand. The young woman sat on the lion's head and inhaled a deep breath of air. Nothing matched the scent of the non-urbanized world or the feel of the unbridled wind. Sensations like those were too rare on the overcrowded world that Earth had become. She thought back to her younger years, remembering how she and her family had moved every year or two while she was in elementary school. Finally Sven was sent to boarding school in Sweden, her mother's home country, so that he would have the opportunity to settle down in one location. Two years later she followed. Sho never did though. By the time he was old enough the war with the Drule had reached an excruciating point and travel from her father's current station on planet Gemma in the Crystalis system to Earth in the Sol was dangerous at best.

Eventually the battle boiled over to other sectors of space. Then her father was able to return his home in Honshu, Japan, on Earth. But Sho...

She heard a pattern of footfalls, a crash through the brush. A four-legged creature, probably a herd beast, she concluded, and likely with a rider because of its definite heading in this direction. Lucia glanced down into the cockpit at her Alliance pilot's uniform. She should put it back on. That would encourage less questions than her AFIS outfit. Then again, being found this close to the Blue Lion might not give her the leeway she would need to hold her story together. She would not have time to dress anyway. She just would have to keep the person away from the lion's cockpit until such a time she could remove her equipment.

Lucia jumped down from the lion's head and tumbled carefully beneath the broad leaves of a bush-like tree. She reached for the side arm at her side, unwilling to give her visitor quarter should he prove too stiff-necked to listen to her story. Her mind raced, concocting a fevered tale that just might ring true given the proper presentation.

The rider galloped into the clearing on the back of a sturdy black stallion. Lucia tightened her grip on her laser. The rider dismounted, keeping a firm grip on his horse's reins, and walked towards the Blue Lion. He spotted the open cockpit and seemed perplexed. He moved to climb the lion's right leg when she stepped out from the foliage.

"Hold it right there," she warned in the Alliance's common tongue.

He turned around and she dropped her gun limply to the ground. Before another word was spoken she had crossed the distance between them and flung her arms about his shoulders.

"Lucia?" he murmured.

"Sven! It's been too long." She stepped back, eyes moist with unshed tears. "To finally see you after these years, after these recent weeks..."

"What happened?" Sven's voice still carried the Swedish accent he had not been as adept in removing as his sister. Though pleased to see her, he knew there was much more to say.

Lucia looked down, brushed a hand along the rims of her eyes. The warrior guise fell away, revealing the weary, near broken woman beneath. "Sven, it's Father. He's... He's dying. The doctors say there's no cure. It's a terminal illness. They give him less than two months to live." She paused to allow Sven to absorb the information. "It will take us at least a month of flight to make it back to Earth. It is Father's wish for everyone to be together one last time before he goes."

"You want to leave immediately? I can understand. But Sho? It will not be the same without him."

Lucia nodded. Sho was their half-brother. Their blood mother, a figure they barely knew, had passed away when Sven was six and Lucia four. Terrorists had boarded the Alliance embassy ship their family was traveling on and the fighting had gotten heavy before they could be repelled. Their mother had gotten in the line of fire, so Lucia had been told. She could remember nothing of the incident, but Sven had occasionally spoken of it in vague gloomy tones. He recalled more than he cared to admit.

Eventually their father remarried, and from this second marriage came Sho. Being much younger than Sven and Lucia, his older two siblings had doted on him during the brief years they lived together. When Lucia had been sent to meet Sven and the relatives on their mother's side in Sweden Sho was only seven. The three siblings traded communications on a regular basis, and they always met whenever their father returned to Galaxy Garrison. As Sho grew older he was reluctant to come to Sweden to join Sven and Lucia. Sho was full Japanese and had no relations there. He idled on his decision and decided to continue traveling with their father until secondary school. Sho was thirteen when they were pinned down on Gemma, only months before he would have returned to Earth for high school.

A year later, Lucia and Sven were informed that their brother was listed among the civilians captured in a raid. They did not expect to see him again.

"I know," said Lucia. She looked up, her spirit returning. "But I believe I've found him. I had heard of a distress call sent from this galaxy to Galaxy Garrison. It had been put on hold because the planet was not important enough to bother with at this point in time. This planet also happens to fall under the domain of one King Zarkon, who we know happens to have relations with the Drule and enjoys the owning of slaves." She narrowed her eyes. "The distress message was sent by one Sho Shirogane."

Sven looked away. "But we have no proof it is actually him. There could be another Sho."

"Another Sho Shirogane? The universe is a very big place, but that's not a common name. And the story makes sense. Besides, if it is him, how can we leave him alone? We must bring him back home!"

He nodded. "You're right. But we should hurry." He looked back at the Blue Lion. "But what about this? Why are you flying it?"

"I landed on planet Arus before coming here since the last I had heard of you was that you had been stationed there as part of the Voltron Force. They don't give us much information about this galaxy back on Earth, so I had no idea you had moved. The decommissioned Sparrowhawk I took from the Alliance wouldn't fly without some classified equipment I used, and even then the ship busted on the way to Arus. I needed a spaceship to find you so I took the best one available. We'll need it to save Sho."

Sven shook his head incredulously. "Let me get this right. You're AWOL, you stole an Alliance ship, and some classified equipment to make it fly again?"

She nodded grimly.

"You will be court-martialed, maybe even executed if we go back! These are still times of war and the laws still hold. Lucia, stealing a Voltron lion is not like stealing a broken Sparrowhawk! If word gets back to the Alliance about that..."

"I know," she said softly. "But I am willing to risk it, risk anything, to see our family together. The Alliance refused to allow me to bring even you back, even though Father wishes for nothing more than us to be together again. Sven, will you help me? I brought this lion because I know it's yours."

"You know I'll help you," he said with a firm nod.

"Then we must hurry. The Voltron Force surely must be after me by now, and there may even be Alliance ships."

* * *

Within less than an hour the Blue Lion soared out of Pollux's atmosphere. Lucia had given Sven directions to the tiny planet Knoll in the Verdant system as well as a star chart she had brought with her from Earth. She told him of the classified equipment she brought in the two boxes and brushed over how to use it should she be unable to help him. Then she had curled up on the metal floor beside the boxes and closed her eyes. Within moments she was asleep.

Sven remained vigilant, feeling protective feelings well up once again. Soldier or not, Lucia was his younger sister, and he would not let her stand alone when she needed help the most. Perhaps a cruel fate awaited her back on Earth, but he would fight for her. Surely the fact this mission was for family would allow for some leniency!

The transwaver flashed a warning light at him. Someone was trying to make contact with the Blue Lion, but the instrument had been turned off from automatic reception. Lucia probably had not wanted the Voltron Force yelling at her all the way to Pollux.

Sven paused a moment, then thumbed the transwaver on. Keith's helmeted face appeared on screen. The Voltron leader wore a mixed _expression of anxiety and surprise. "Sven! Is Lucia with you?"

He nodded quietly. "Yes, she is, Keith. I am letting you know that we need to use the lion for a little while."

"What? Sven, we need the lion back on Arus! You can't just take it! How'd she talk you into this anyhow?"

Sven set his course, preparing to slingshot from Pollux's gravity well. He knew that once he did the Voltron Force would loose him, unaware of his destination.

"Keith," he said, "there are some loyalties that cannot be ignored. And there is no water in ocean, river, or lake that flows thicker than blood."

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