Broken Wings

Chapter One

Date: March 7, 10021 A.F.
Location: Alliance Outpost Guttterblod IV,
	 Keris City, Hontar,
	 Nemai, Tondar quadrant.
Time: 0730 STG

Commodore Hendrick Bjornson of the League of Allied Planets, hated Nemai. His post should have been a temporary position; he was only supposed to oversee the transport of the Ki'ir-ar slaves to detainment camps on Terra. But, thanks to the damnable slave insurrection in '15, he had been stuck on this planet for almost two years. His little Sven wouldn't be so little anymore. Oh how he missed his family.

He supposed he should be grateful that he didn't have the problems that his predecessor had. All he had to do was clean up the survivors before they were shipped to work planets. He hadn't had to fight a war against a truly demonic leader. No, his battle was against the remants of a broken band; they were weak, but they still held him captive on this planet, trapped him by their rebellion.

Bjornson frowned at the thought of the rebel leader. The source of all of his trouble stood chained to a post in the middle of the courtyard, his howling, bird-like curses penetrating the complex. Bjornson paused in front of one of the many windows that lined the base's walls and looked down into the courtyard at his captive.

The young Ki'ir-ar, number VN-666-873-92 according to the records he held, had spirit, Admiral Bjornson grudgingly admitted. Even now, eight months after his capture, this particular Ki'ir-ar still resisted his captors with such hatred and ferocity that it was deemed savage by even the other members of his barbaric race. Nothing could overcome his great spirit. The beatings and broken bones, sleep deprivation and constant harangues designed to tear down the self-worth and psychological well being of the victim, were all useless. Even now, chained by painful Light-shackles, stripped of his clothing, powerful golden-red wings stretched as far as the could go and hanging by his wrists from a beam suspended ten feet in the air he still maintained his arrogance and feral mien.

But, Bjornson had been expecting more resistance from VN-666-873-92 than from the rest of the worthless creatures. The young Ki'ir-ar had single-handedly led the slave resistance for six years before his capture. He had freed almost five thousand slaves and despite multiple captures, had managed to escape within a week on his incarceration! Even breaking his wings hadn't managed to stop him.

VN-666-873-92 screamed in pain as one of the soldiers guarding him pulled a long pin feather from his wing. The men had been at this new “sport” for a while, a wing and a half completely plucked, the Ki'ir-ar's blood dripping onto the large mound of feathers beneath him. Bjornson supposed he should stop them at some point, out of protocol more than anything else. Yet, he couldn't help his fascination at how human and how alien the Ki'ir-ar looked.

The slave was certainly a handsome devil. Black, unruly hair, skin the color of burnished gold, soulful eyes that gleamed wetly in the Nemai sun, slightly Asian features and smooth, sleek muscles. Even the wings could have been pleasing to look at had they had their full plumage. It was amazing how something so human looking could be so very different from any humanoid he had ever encountered.

Cut off those wings and he could easily pass for a young Terran, Bjornson marvled, gazing in awe at the young man below him.

Then his thoughts turned to the ten thousand and some odd years of fighting that had marred this planet, and the staggering number of Alliance lives that had been destroyed by the ferocity with which the Ki'ir-ar fought. Sixteen full scale wars had been waged on this planet, since the Alliance was first formed, and over seven hundred slave revolts. The Galaxy Garrison managed to put the attacks down each time, but to have even one drop of Alliance blood spilled on this godforsaken planet was the worse sacrilege possible. It was such a pity that slave VN-666-873-92 had chosen to resurrect the rebellious spirit of those few Ki'ir-ar that remained free. There had been such hope for an end to the fighting on Nemai when the millennium turned two decades ago.

Bjornson's face turned ugly, twisted with anger. That damn pup. If not for him, we could have finally been able to send men to more important quadrants of the galaxy, where they were really needed. Instead, we just waste more Terran lives on these worthless creatures. Violent, stupid, beasts!

Though Bjornson had only fought in one battle against the Ki'ir-ar, that single encounter had been more than enough to give him nightmares about his Ki'ir-ar opponents for months afterwards. The winged aliens attacked with a bestial frenzy, one 'warrior' doing more damage to with the Ki'ir-ar's strange, sword-like weapons than an entire platoon of Land-Foot and their heavy artillery. They showed no mercy, slaughtering everything that lived, and preferred to kill themselves rather than risk capture.

"Sir, the last of the Ki'ir-ar slaves in this complex have boarded the transport." A young ensign came to stand by his elbow, respectfully deferential.

Bjornson tore his attention from the torture of the rebel leader to look at the young shinvai. "Good. Tell Control to give them the Go-ahead signal."

The Commodore paused and looked down at the now featherless Ki'ir-ar. The alien's struggles were growing weaker. Bjornson shuddered at the ugly, naked wings and the thin, translucent skin that was stretched tautly over the wing bones. The soldiers had taken to using the hanging slave as target practice out of sheer boredom. The young alien had been hanging from the post for nearly two days in an attempt to break his spirit, but the Ki'ir-ar remained as defiant as ever. Bjornson frowned. It was time to admit defeat and ship VN-666-873-92 off to Moratum and let the Alliance deal with breaking him. Besides, if he remained here much longer, he would be killed and all the vital information he carried would be lost. He turned back to the Ensign and gestured for him to come closer.

"Go stop those fools from wasting ammunition on that Ki'ir-ar down there. And tell them to put him on the transport to Moratum."

"Yes sir." The ensign saluted, and moved off, speaking the commands into his com-link. In the courtyard the idling soldiers jumped to attention as the orders were barked at them. Bjornson watched only long enough to ensure that his orders were being carried out before moving off to his study, his mind occupied with more important matters that the removal of one Ki'ir-ar.

Grumbling, the men violently pulled the Ki'ir-ar off the post, yanking on the captive's arms and naked wings, manhandling him to the Main Gate. They hated these aliens with just as much passion as their commodore, but this was the only Ki'ir-ar that they had been ordered to do with as they wished, and they relished the chance to do so. One of the guards took his cigarette from his mouth and snuffed it on the skin below the Ki'ir-ar's eye with a laugh. His amusement turned to anger as the youth refused to react, so exhausted that he couldn't even flinch. This wouldn't be the first time that a cigarette had been extinguished on his skin.

The man growled, and lit up another cigarette. He took a long drag and expelled a plume of blue smoke into the air before barking orders at the rest of the soldiers. They dragged the Ki'ir-ar's limp and unresisting body across the courtyard and over the rough flagstones, a bloody trail marking their passing. They manhandled his body into the hold of waiting ship, bound for the Galaxy Garrison's premiere medical outpost back in the Sol quadrant.

As the transport quickly became nothing but a small dot against the brilliant blue sky, a pair of huge, shadowy wings ghosted over the complex, accompanied by a soft rattle, like pebbles being dropped onto a tin roof. Moments later, the complex exploded with a rush of hot air and billowing flames.

The wings circled once, twice, three times and then drifted on past the flaming base, a strange cry of triumph streaking through the roar of the flames.


An excerpt from
A Condensed History of the Alliance
by Vynan al'Tomn,
Recorder for the planet Harmon.
Translated into Basic by Henry J-van of dEkk-mnz.

Many historians state (and with good reason) that the Alliance began with the founding of New Earth approximately three millennia before the Coming of the Five. The settlers of New Earth came upon this planet through accident, originally intending to establish a record colony on Calisto, the largest of Jupiter's moons. However, the vessel accidentally slipped into a phenomenon that is known as a "Worm hole" that deposited the craft in the Zonai system. The First Terrans have been the only citizens of Earth-prime to make it to the Zonai system in the history of this galaxy.

Because these first settlers had intended to build a colony dedicated to preserving the history and knowledge of Earth-prime, the settlers were quickly able to form such a colony on their new planet. It is because of this lucky happenstance that we have any knowledge of Earth-prime; to have lost this ancient knowledge would have been the worse catastrophe to occur to Sentients everywhere. However, it wasn't only the coincidence that the lost ship was a colony-founding that accounted for the easy adaptation. All records indicate that New Earth is very similar to Earth-prime in everything save the greater number of indigenous species, the two extra moons, and the size (New Earth being slightly larger in circumference).

The first three millennia on New Earth were spent both surviving, exploring and expanding, until New Earth had been shaped into it's present form. It was after this period of reorganization that New Earth developed Space Technology where deep-space travel could be achieved in a reasonably short time. This advance allowed the Terrans to make First Contact with two more members of the original Five: Arus and Nemai.

It should be noted, however, that contact with Arus was more on the part of the Arusians, rather than the Terrans, for Arus is situated in what is now known as the Intermediate-Galaxy--a range that was too far for the first Deep-Space ships. The alliance between Arus and New Earth was the First Alliance, created out of peace and a desire to learn. The alliance was probably highly facilitated by how alike the Arusians and Terrans are in appearance. In fact, except for having a higher concentration of iron in their blood system and a greater resistance to alcohol poisoning, Arusians are exactly like Terrans.

A decade later, the Arus-Terra alliance allied with a third: the Renstat of Nemai. This alliance was born out of the Renstat need for military assistance against an indigenous and deadly species of their planet: the Ki'ir-arni. The Ki'ir-arni are a winged species, their evolutionary track compensating for Nemai's extreme gravity by making them medium-to-reasonably tall, streamlined in form and winged, as opposed to the stout, and almost monstrously strong Renstat. The Ki'ir-arni are the closest fauna on Nemai to approaching some form of sentience. However, despite their humanoid form, the Ki'ir-ar are extremely primitive and bestial, their savagery belying any attempts at a civilized veneer that they might put on. Statistically based, one Ki'ir-ar fighter is the equivalent of a platoon of Landed-foot.

The war that raged on Nemai--and has been raging ever since--drew in a fourth member to the alliance, the planet Harmon which is situated in the same star-system as Nemai. The lizard-like sentients of Harmon were the first non-humanoid race to enter the alliance. The Harmonai were first contracted as mercenaries, before later becoming full allies.

The Harmonai are responsible for the final planet to join the First Alliance. Because of the Harmonai connections as inter-planetary mercenaries, they were able to introduce the highly advanced dEkk-mnzvar to the Arusians, Terrans and Nemaians. The dEkk-mnzvar technology made the greatest difference in the First Ki'ir-ar war and a hundred and fifty years after the Nemaian alliance with Arus and Terra, the First Ki'ir-ar war ended.

At the end of war, anger at the Ki'ir-arni was great. Many members of the Alliance of Five wished to exterminate the half-million prisoners of war. However, the heads of the Alliance--the first Council of Five--decided to institute the enslavement of all Ki'ir-arni as compensation. They decreed that the Ki'ir-ar were non-sentient creatures, equating their intelligence with that of intelligent monkeys. The Council issued the Articles of Enslavement as a means of regulating the Ki'ir-ar slaves.

This edict was slow to take, since many citizens of the Alliance feared the Ki'ir-arni. The Council ordered the first Training Facility to be built in response to this fear. This first Facility, which was originally a complex on the planet-moon Ymn'ki in the Lyven system, was completed in 184 A.F and christened Moratum. In later years, Moratum was to take over Ymn'ki, and change its title from Training Facility to Medicinal Research Complex. Though many now view Moratum as a grand and honorable institution, it should be remembered that every medical breakthrough was first tested on the Ki'ir-arni sent there. And that Moratum's purpose is--as it always has been--to break the wills of those slaves sent its way.

Chapter Two

Date: July 21, 10039 A.F.
Location: 1.5 kiv from Castle of Lions,
	 Leon Lake, Lecub,
	 Arus, Diamond Quadrant.
Time: 1350 STG

Allura knew that she should have expected this latest development, as the day had had all the earmarks of surreality. Then again, strange occurrences did usually occur whenever Sven visited. But, never had his visit sparked anything as bizarre as the events that had made up the day. The oddities started at breakfast, when Hunk announced that he was voluntarily going on a diet. Then Keith had commented on how nice a day it was and insisted that everybody to take some R&R time, going so far as to commandeer Nanny and arrange for a picnic lunch by the lake. And now, when everyone else was enjoying themselves splashing and playing about in the lake--even the stoic Keith--Lance was brooding on a hill that overlooked the festivities. Too say that this was strange would be like saying that Keith was mildly over-protective.

Forgoing her own relaxation, Allura made her way up to the hill, where her friend solemnly sat. With a sigh she settled down on the knoll, and followed Lance's gaze. She had to admit that her oddly pensive friend had an excellent vantage point, the entire festivities easily visible. A smile curled around Allura's lips as she watched Sven and Keith playing a game of chicken with Hunk and Pidge in the lake. It was nice to see the reserved captain so at ease, and to see the hard mask that he normally presented to the world slip at least a little.

But that wasn't the reason she had trekked up this grassy hill, she reminded herself. After all, the happy air that surrounded her friends was marred by Lance's sudden introversion.

"There's a much better use for your swimming suit than just sitting, you know. Besides, there's a better view down there," she said quietly. Lance jerked slightly, and quickly glanced at her, an expression of guilt fleeting across his face.

"Oh, Allura. I, uh, I didn't see you there." He grinned a pale reflection of his normally cocky smile and leaned back in an attempt to look relaxed.

Now why would he look guilty? Allura mused, studying her friend's face. But then again, he's been acting really depressed for almost a week now.

She mentally shrugged, and made a note to herself to tell Keith her worries; this was yet another item added to her growing list of things to discuss with Keith. They were due for a long talk soon enough, anyway.

"So, what are you doing up here, Al?"

Allura smiled. "Making sure that all my friends are having a good time. If I didn't know better, I'd say we slipped into an alternate dimension."

Lance laughed, though a little bitterly, at that and smiled a slightly twisted smile. "Maybe we have, Al. Maybe we have. Can't be much worse than reality, can it?"

Allura shrugged and stood, dusting off her dress. "Well, whatever's happened, all I know is that we should enjoy the fact that Keith is loosening up a little and go have some fun." She extended her hand to the seated boy and smiled coyly. "I want to play whatever it is that the others are playing, but I don't have a partner. Want to be mine, Lance?"

"All right, Al, let's go play." Lance stood and stretched, a sad mockery of a smile on his face. "If nothing else, it'll certainly be interesting trying to explain to Coran and Nanny why you're sitting on my shoulders in your bathing suit."

"Looks as though we won't have to," Allura replied, frowning at the sight of Nanny climbing laboriously up the hill, her round face flushed and gleaming with sweat. Allura sped up, pulling Lance along behind her, as she moved to meet her governess.

"My lady! My lady! Oh! Why are you up here? It is so hot. You are going to get sunstroke!" Nanny gasped and panted, moping her brow with a square of linen. Her chest heaved, as she slowly caught her breath. "Oh, Princess, you should be inside."

"Nonsense Nanny. I'm perfectly fine out here," Allura replied, a bit testily. Trust Nanny to ruin what would have been a perfectly wonderful afternoon.

"Fine, fine. But don't come running to me when your face is all red and sore from sunburn," Nanny shook her finger at Allura and straightened up. "And what about you, young man. What are you doing alone with the Princess, hmm?"

Nanny looked at Lance sternly, taking in the slightly guilty expression and his swimming-trunks clad body. Her prudish sense of modesty and decorum was horrified by the sight of her Princess and the almost naked Space Explorer.

"We were just talking Nanny!" Allura replied, exasperated. "We do that a lot!"

"Don't take that tone with me, young lady!" Nanny drew herself up in self-righteous indignation. Allura heard Lance sigh in resignation beside her. Much as she hated to admit it, these shouting matches had grown far more frequent. It seemed as if anything could spark the shouting, despite Allura's attempts at the contrary.

Giving Lance a slightly apologetic shrug, Allura released his hand. Lance gave her a small, commiserating smile in return before slipping off, lost once more in his thoughts.


Keith couldn't help himself. There was just something about seeing Lance brooding that always drew his attention. Perhaps it was because a thoughtful looking Lance was so rare. Or maybe, it was because of the way this pensive cast contrasted so sharply with the normally roguish air. Whatever it was, Keith always found that his mind shut down when he saw Lance brooding, unable to do more than stare at him in mindless adoration.

And now, there he was. Just staring sightlessly across the lake, his face so solemn and so beautiful...

Sven stumbled, and Keith yelped as he fell from his perch on his friends shoulders, landing in the chilly waters of the lake with a splash. The erection that had been threatening vanished as the chill invaded his flesh.

I needed that, Keith thought as he surfaced spluttering. I can't be captivated by Lance. He made it perfectly clear that he doesn't want me anymore, and I can't say I blame him. I wouldn't want me either. Anyway, I certainly can't let Mr. Happy get all excited when he's around.

"Sorry. I slipped." Sven reached down and pulled Keith up, using the motion as an opportunity to whisper into his ear: "Besides, I thought yew could use a little help vit yer problem."

"Thanks," Keith whispered back wryly.

"Hah! We win!" Pidge crowed triumphantly.

"Great. Lets go eat." Hunk grinned and dropped his partner into the lake before striding off towards the shore and the picnic basket.

"Hey! You big lummox! You aren't supposed to drop me after we win!" Pidge shouted as he swam after his large friend.

Sven rolled his eyes and followed. "Yew coming Keit?"

"In a minute. I just...I'm going to go talk to Lance."

Sven sighed. "Keit, don't. Nothing is going to change the past."

Keith shrugged. "I know. It's just...well, it's just not like him to be so distant."

"Suit yer self. But I'm going to go eat before Hunk finishes off all the food. It turns out he doesn't have to go on a diet after all. His uniform yust shrank in the wash." Sven grinned wryly as he glanced over at Hunk who was busily devouring the large picnic basket in his normally ravenous fashion.

Keith nodded and watched Sven go. It was nice that his friend cared about him so much, but sometimes it really wasn't necessary. It wasn't as if he were going over there to start something again. Lance had made it perfectly clear that that period of their relationship was over. It's just...well...It wasn't normal to see Lance brood. That was all. He was just being a good friend.

Right. I'm just checking up on my friend. And if I believe that than I'm worse off than I thought. Face it Keith. You still want him. You've always wanted him. But, he doesn't want you back. You have to accept this. It's been four years for Kami's sake! Use some self-control, for once. Just because he's the most beautiful person you've ever known is no excuse to go against his wishes. Besides, he's your best friend. Be glad of that.

I wonder why he's brooding...Could it be that he remembers what today is? But then again, why would he remember? It's been so long. Keith sighed and ran a hand through his water logged hair, frustrated at the indecisiveness that plagued him when it came to Lance.

"Captain Keith! There are some men here who wish to speak to you." Coran's voice halted Keith from further contemplation, and the young captain gladly turned to look at the aging counselor. It was something of a relief to slip back into his role as an officer, and to push aside the wistful thoughts that cluttered his mind.

He waded to the shore where Coran stood with two Galaxy Garrison MPs.

What do those MPs have to do with me? Keith wondered as he approached. Out of the corner of his eye, Keith saw that Lance had rejoined the group, and he made a mental note to corner him after the MPs were through with whatever business they had.

"What can I do for you two Officers?" Keith asked politely. The older of the two men looked him over, then nodded at his burly companion. To Keith's surprise the burly MP grabbed him, forcing his arms behind his back and locking them down in Currilam cuffs.

"Keith Seiko Tsumetai, you are under arrest for violation of the first, second, fourth, eighteenth and nineteenth Articles of Slavery, which prohibits any slave from holding a position of power in the Alliance, being armed, conspiring against the Alliance, and attempting to disguise yourself as a member of a Sentient race. You are also charged with the crimes of your master, General Onaa Masurao Tsumetai, and his wife, Kyoko Tsumetai. These crimes, Treason, Espionage, and First-Degree Sentient-slaughter, as well as the violation of the aforementioned Articles of Slavery, condemn you to death. Your public execution by burning will be in two weeks on New Earth." The MP turned to the rest of the Voltron Force and executed a slight bow. "We at the Alliance apologize for the peril that you have been placed in and will grant you reparations for any injuries experienced while in contact with this Ki'ir-ar."

Keith stared at the two men strangely, then began to laugh at the absurdity of the statement. "You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

"Shut up, slave." The burly MP slapped him hard across the face, catching his lip with a ring ripping a brilliant gash in the tender flesh. Keith reeled back in shock, staring at the man who had hit him. Truth be told, thought, he didn't know which was worse: the blow or being called a slave.

"What the hell do you two think you're doing? That's a Captain you're assaulting!" Lance snapped. "You can't just accuse him of being a Ki'ir-ar and haul him off to some sort of execution without a substantial amount of proof!"

"You want proof? Here." The second MP, the one that had dropped this bombshell, grabbed Keith's right arm, scanning it with a small neuro meter. Slowly, a number began to bleed through the skin, called up from below whatever cosmetic surgery had been done to cover it. "Slave number VN-666-873-92, the last unified Rebel Leader. Supposedly killed on October sixth, 10022. Is that enough proof for you?"

Keith gaped at the MP, still too shocked to comprehend what was being said. He couldn't be a slave...could he? And his father. His father wouldn't lie to him.

He looked at his friends as the burly MP forced him forward, wanting to find someone that didn't believe what was being said about him, didn't believe the tattoo on his arm. Allura stared at him in shock, Pidge in hurt confusion. Hunk was glaring at the MPs with a target-less anger. Sven's look, somewhere between cold anger and disbelief, was painful to see, and he turned his head away.

But, Lance...Lance's expression was the worst. For Lance looked at him with pale sickness, a horrified disgust directed at Keith...and at himself.

Keith felt something deep within him break at the look, at the knowledge that the intimacy that he had shared with Lance made his former lover sick, that his best friend was so willing to believe these...fabrications. What was left of his soul shriveled at that look, at the loathing that he saw in Lance's eyes. He bowed his head in shame and defeat, and not even the knowledge that all the Alliance had now was a lifeless shell could give him any sort of satisfaction.


Excerpts from
The Articles of Slavery
As Set Down by the Council of Five,
In the One Hundred Fifty Second Year
After the Pentiam Alliance

Preamble: Because the Ki'ir-arni posses none of the Higher Qualities of Sentience, they are thus, not Equal to the citizens of the Alliance, and it is the Right of those who are Civilized to enslave these beasts. They must be taught, like a Dog or Cat or any other form of Domesticated Beast is taught, the Right and Proper ways of Behaving. It is for the Good of their People that they are Enslaved for, if left to their own devices they would surely Destroy themselves. Their Savagery must be Tamed, their Rough Edges polished and smoothed, and it is the Duty of all Sentients to train the Ki'ir-ar and Domesticate their Barbaric ways until they can take their Proper place in the Alliance as Obedient Servants. As they are no better than the Dog or Cat or Del'ni, it is Just that they are treated as such. The Ki'ir-ar are enslaved because they present a Real and Dangerous Threat to all Sentient Beings. They are not Sentient, and have no capability for Morality, Ethics, Relational Thought or any form of Higher Intelligence. They are little more than Beasts, who are only capable of mimicking those values that they see in Beings of Higher Thought. Since there are those among the Alliance who Fear and Abhor the Conquered Ki'ir-ar, it has been decided by the Council of Five that these Laws must be set down to Quell that Fear and Ease the minds of her citizens. These Laws are Inviolable and may not be infringed upon.

Article I: No Ki'ir-ar may hold any position of Power, or Authority in any area of the Alliance, whether it is Domestic or Military. Punishment for disregarding this Law is death for both Master and Slave, for endangering the well-being of all Sentients.

Article II: No Ki'ir-ar may harm a Sentient in any way, shape or form. Punishment for Breaking this Law is Death to the Ki'ir-ar and reparations to the injured party by the Ki'ir-ar's master.

Article III: Ki'ir-ar are to be considered property, and so, all laws regarding property are applicable to them, thus: 1) The Alliance claims all rights to seizure of Ki'ir-ar as payment for debts or bonds owed to the Alliance.

2) A Ki'ir-ar may be used either in lieu of payment, or as a Bond of Faith.

Article IV: It is punishable by death to arm a Ki'ir-ar.

Article V: Article VI: The Ki'ir-ar are not included under the Declaration of the Rights of Sentience, for they are deemed to be without sentience...

Article VIII: All Ki'ir-arni must be registered in the Alliance...

Article X: The Ki'ir-arni are to be considered separate from beasts. The Master of a Ki'ir-ar may do whatsoever they deem as fit treatment, so long as that treatment does not violate the Laws written here.

Article XII: All Ki'ir-arni seen without a Master, or without some proper identification of ownership must be seized and turned into the Alliance without hesitation....

Article XVII: Any Ki'ir-ar who conspired or assisted their Master in breaking any Alliance or Planetary Law in any means, is to be charged with the crimes of their Master and punished as it is seen fit...

Article XIX: No Ki'ir-ar may attempt to disguise themselves as a member of any Sentient Race...

Article XXI: Any child born to a union of Ki'ir-ar and Sentient, is to be destroyed, for their own Good. For it is deemed a foul punishment to permit any half-breed of Ki'ir-ar and Sentient to be forced into either environ. They posses too much Sentience to be Enslaved, and not enough Sentience to be part of a Sentient culture...

Article XXII: Rape precipitated by a Ki'ir-ar is to be punished by death...

Article XXIV: Any Ki'ir-ar found fleeing from their Master is to be punished in whatsoever manner their Master see fit.

Article XXXII: All Ki'ir-arni are subject to the Laws and Regulations of both Alliance and Planetary Law.

Chapter Three

Date: July 21, 10039 A.F
Location: ACS Pursues, the Brig
	 Orbiting Planet Arus, Diamond Quadrant. 
Time: 1430 STG

Keith could feel the blood tricking down his chin, taste it as it welled from the gash on his lip where one of his captors had hit him. The tangy, salty taste was all too familiar, too well known to turn his stomach anymore. Besides, anything was better than having to focus on Lance's face, to see that pained, disgusted, look...

No. Stop that. Think of something else. Anything else. Keith closed his eyes, trying to conjure up some other image of Lance, some other face to erase the twisted visage that had been burned into his mind as he was being led away. A thousand images came to him, memories of Lance sleeping, laughing, gazing at him with love struck eyes...but none could replace the disgust; none could remove the horror of seeing Lance's look of loathing. The apathy that had taken his soul returned, rushing into the empty void, filling him with indifference to life, indifference to the world. What good was it to go on living if Lance hated him?

"Wot are we going ta do with 'im, eh?" The sexless, six armed genda-khar prodded him with its laser-club, the scaly, sharkish face undulating horribly as it spoke. The lip-less mouth pulled back to expose row upon row of pointed, jagged teeth with each word. Keith marveled at the predatory gleam in the small piggish eyes.

"Jhan, if that is a vegetarian, I'd hate to see what sort of vegetables they have on its planet."

Lance's voice whispered in Keith's mind, a vague memory that brought a slight smile to his face.

"Wot you smiling at, boy?" The genda glared at him, one of its thick, three-fingered hands clenching in anticipation. "Think this is funny?"

"Jorn, don't let the little pintak get to you," the other jailer--a Terran female--counseled, one hand on a thick, scaly arm. "Probably can't even understand what's going on. You know how these Ki'ir-ar are, don't have enough intelligence to know when they're about to die."

"Oh, but I do, Officer. I know that as soon as my father gets here and explains everything, you two are going to be court marshaled for inflicting bodily harm upon a higher-ranking officer." Keith smiled coldly, once more grateful of his acting ability, of his talent at wrapping a new identity around himself and keeping others at bay. The genda laughed at him.

"Oh, you think so, slave? Well, why don't you meet your neighbors?" The genda was laughing cruelly as it shoved Keith into the waiting cell, the harsh, mocking, gasping sound grating on his ears and capturing his mind as the gate closed and the bars suddenly glowed with the cold blue light of the electricity that ran through them.

"Bastard," Keith spat halfheartedly, lacking the will to truly care about either his jailers or himself. He rubbed his arms and paced the small cell, doing everything he could to avoid thinking about Lance, about the desire to die that welled up so violently within him.

"Keith? Is that you, son?" The rough male voice sent a shiver of cold fear into his heart, and Keith slowly turned, not wanting to believe what his ears told him.

"D-dad?" Keith stared in shock at his father, the normally stoic and granite faced general looking bewildered and frightened, in his bed clothes. He suddenly seemed smaller to Keith, missing his familiar, commanding presence, his coal black hair showing some signs of grey.

When did he get so old?

"Oh Keith! My baby!" Kyoko Tsumetai reached out between the bars, her thin arms barely avoiding the glowing bars. The beautiful, petit Asian looked far worse for her internment, her normally perfect black hair messy, and dirt smudged on her delicate face. Keith rushed to her, silently cursing the bars that kept them apart.

"Mom! What's going on?"

"Oh, Keith, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," Kyoko sobbed. "We never should have done it. We never should have tried to circumvent fate so. It's just that you looked so much like Ash, and you would never have flown again anyway and we could never treat you like a slave, never let you be sold off...Oh Keith. I'm so sorry that we did this to you, so sorry that we lied, that we tried to make you into something that you aren't. If we had just left it alone, if we had just left things as they were, you would never be in this position. We would all be safe at home, and nobody would ever have to know that we were treating a Ki'ir-ar like a Sentient."

"W-what are you talking about? Wings? I never had wings! Why are you calling me a Ki'ir-ar?" Keith backed away from the separator, pale and shaking with this shock. "I-is this about the tattoo? Because that--that's just a trick, right? That's just a...a...a hologram or something, right? isn't real. I'd remember if it were real. Right? Right?"

"It's true. We wiped your memory," Onaa Tsumetai whispered, greying head bowed.

"You what? Why!"

"You and were both so close, almost identical. When Ash...When Ash died, and your wings got mangled...we had to cut them off so you'd live...and you looked almost exactly like Ash, when he was that age, and sounded so much like him that we...we could pretend that it was Ash, that he came back to life. But, couldn't remember what your life was like before. You hated the Alliance so much, it would have been too hard to help the Ki'ir-arni on would have been so hard to keep our cover if you we had to block your memories, to keep all of us safe. And it was like giving you a blank slate, like giving you a new life, without any of the pain that you went through before. You didn't grow up with the knowledge that you were a slave, that you weren't a Sentient being."

"You brainwashed me! How could you? And how could you sell secrets to the Ki'ir-ar? They're the enemy! betrayed the Alliance! You betrayed everything that I believe in! How could you? How could you! You, who taught me to love the Alliance! How could you do this to me! To the Alliance!"


"No! I'm not your son! I refuse to be the son of a traitor! And I refuse to believe that crap about being a Ki'ir-ar. If I were a fucking Ki'ir-ar, I shouldn't even be able to talk! Those things have less intelligence than a cow. They're worse than the Drule. At least the Drule have some sense of ethics."

"Keith! I order you to stop!" Onaa barked out the command, mustering as much of his old power as he could.

"No! You have no power over me! You can't order me to do anything! You aren't my fucking parents anymore!"

"As you Master I command you to stop!" Keith fell back, sick with shock, disgusted at what had just been said to him by the man whom--from all accounts of his memory--had always been his father. Onaa stared back at him, stricken with what he had just said, paralyzed by the expression on Keith's face. "Oh, Kami, Keith, I didn't mean that. I didn't-"

"Than it's true," Keith murmured. "I really am a slave. I really am one of those worthless creatures."

Black despair roared over him, capturing him, filling him, whispering to him that the only way out was death. He was consumed with disgust for what he was, disgusted with his parents for lying, for feeding him false smiles and insincere murmurings of love. "I've been living a lie. My entire life is a one big lie."

"No, Keith, it's not like that. We love you, Keith. Please, you have to believe that. What we did was for your own good, for the good of the cause. If you remembered, you'd agree," Kyoko begged.

"If I remembered. But, you ensured that I wouldn't. You erased my memory, you made sure that I could never go back to who ever it was that I was before...before this! You fucking erased me! You destroyed me! I'm lost because of you, you fucking traitor!" Anger, so much anger that it replaced the apathy, replaced the despair and desire for death. Anger at these people who claimed to be his parents, claimed to love him...who chose to play God with him.

Oh Kami, why did you let them do it? Why did you let them treat me just another piece of equipment, like some thing that doesn't even register as a living, breathing being? Why did you let me kill the Ki'ir-arni? Why did you let my first mission be the destruction of my own kind?

"Keith, please. We had to do this. We had to."

"No you didn't! You could have just let me die! What's one more slave? What's one more Ki'ir-ar death? Fuck! I've killed more than enough of them. I should have died. I should have died, damn it! What right did you have to make me live, let me grow up to anniahlate five hundred of my race? To drop a fucking bomb on them?" Keith shuddered, sickened by memory of his first assignment, memory of the twisted, burned bodies--and worse, the Ki'ir-ar that were still alive, burned and scarred and in pain beyond any description, but horribly, pitifully alive. I killed them, I burned them, and I laughed. I laughed as their blood stained my hands, my clothes...Oh Kami I laughed at their pain.

"We couldn't! We loved you too much, Keith. And you were too important to the cause. You knew too much to ever fall into the wrong hands, and were too integral to the freedom of all Ki'ir-ar to die."

"You don't love me! All you love is your stupid 'cause'! All I am to you is just another Ki'ir-ar who is too valuable an asset to be allowed to die! Well, fuck you! Fuck you and your all mighty 'cause'! Because I am not going to let you do this to me anymore! I'm not going to be your little pet to dress up in as a Sentient and keep your precious information safe!"

There was nothing left for him. Nobody loved him; Lance had abandoned him long ago, his friends would never have anything to do with him and his parents...His parents, who had always seemed to love him, who had always treated him with adoration, had showed him only the same love that is given to a favored pet. Angry, half-blinded by the black grief that killed his soul, Keith reached out and grabbed the bars of his cell. The blue energy flickered around his hands, dancing harmlessly over his skin for a few eternal seconds.

Then the pain began.

A scream was torn from his throat as the electricity flowed through him. Wave after wave coursed through his body, baking his flesh, roasting him from the inside out. The skin on his hands blackened and bubbled, the hair that covered his body began to shrivel and burn, the harsh smell mingling in a sickening combination with the odor of his cooking body. The lights flickered around him, as more and more energy was suddenly sucked into the bar's power supply, drawn by the sudden addition of a new circuit. A mad, howling laughter filled the air, coming from some unknown source until Keith realized that he was making the noise, that he was the source of the wavering, haunting noise.

Then, something burst. Something shattered within the back of his skull, crackling and fizzing, tearing at his body from the inside. The pain was intense, worse than the currents that ran through him, the currents that killed him in slow agony.

Crying with the pain that suddenly overwhelmed him, Keith pulled his hands away from the bars, freeing them with a sickening noise, tearing the skin from where it was cooked onto the metal, sealed there by his blood. Whimpering, unable to think of anything except removing the source of the pain, he scratched and tore violently at the back of his neck, pulling away the soft, half-baked flesh. Blood oozed down his back in a ruddy stream, steaming slightly as it hit the air. His fingers grew slick, slipping more and more in their frantic search.

Muscle, nerve, tender fat, were all ripped through, torn out in jagged, painful strips, until finally, his fingers reached bone. The slick vertebrae vibrated slightly, filled with some unknown current, humming in a barely noticeable fashion. His clawing fingers suddenly snagged, caught on a round piece of metal that stuck out from the base of his skull. The pain suddenly intensified, and it felt as if part of his skull had been yanked from its resting place. Filled with a sudden self-destructive desire, Keith latched onto the metal, pulling and worrying the object with an insane determination; a cool liquid coursed over his hands every time he pulled the knob, sliding the small metal rod out further with each jerk.

Then something snapped. And his mind was filled with memories.

"Oh God!"

An involuntary cry. There was no god who could save him now. There was no power in the universe strong enough to pull him from this new hell. He felt as if he were drowning in the images, the ghosting sensations that rushed over him. The feelings overwhelmed him, mercilessly bombarding him, clawing away at his sanity. There was too much, too many images, too many smells, touches, tastes, sounds to process. Why had he ever wanted to remember? Why hadn't he died yet? much blood. I'm drowning. Drowning in the blood....Hands...hands everywhere...touching me...feeling me...raping me...hurting me...killing me...Get them away! Make them stop!...Mom? Dad? Where are you going? Why are you leaving me?...No! Stop! Oh God, the bodies! So many bodies! Why are there so many bodies?...The mud...It's red! The earth is stained with all that blood!

Then suddenly, there was only blessed blackness.

Excerpts from
Religion and Belief in the Alliance
Compiled by Daniel Woodsworth
Of Planet Genam
Chapter Seven: Balthos

Of the Twenty-two Alliance planets, planet Balthos--seventh planet to ally--is the richest in terms of tradition and religion. Matriarchal in practice, there is almost a one-to-five ratio of women to men. This has given rise to a polygamous society...There are seven major ecclesiastical beliefs, six of which are monotheistic, and nearly 1.5 million cults. The six monotheistic sects claim to worship the same Deity--indeed, they are very alike in tradition, teachings and practice. Indeed, when I interviewed the heads of each sect, they were quite adamant that they were truly of one religion.

The system is unique, each sect claiming rule over a certain aspect of life, from family, to home, to work, to leisure, etc. The followers of each sect believe that their domain is the best way to reach Jenis--the equivalent of the Terrans Christian concept of Heaven...The largest sect, the polytheists--who call themselves "Yehu-Sama" or "Seekers of the One"--actually worship twelve deities. They prescribe to the "Circle of Life" theorem; that is, mortals must go through a series of births and rebirths, each lifetime either allowing or prohibiting the mortal from reaching "Samadan" or "Oneness with All." They are what many members of the Alliance would term "humanists," striving to do what is right and just. The goal of a Yehu-Sama is to have each rebirth take them one step closer to Samadan.

However, unlike most religions who seek for an utopian afterlife, the Yehu-Sama's have no rules or guidelines which they can follow to reach Samadan; in fact, the only rule that applies to this cult is the prohibition of a form of interaction (carnal or social) with the Ki'ir-ar. The Ki'ir-ar are, to the Yehu-Sama, the religious equivalent of Politicians; a necessary evil, but one that must be avoided. They place the burden of reaching their Nirvana squarely upon the shoulders of the practitioners. Personal morality, beliefs, and values determined the quality of ones next life. In their words, "Han y'lam Gervan, esa j'har Sai" or "Let the conscience be your guide."...

They are very close to their deities, and reports of avatars and the Gods themselves actually walking among their worshipers are not uncommon. Just how true these reports are, remains to be seen. However, they should not be dismissed lightly, for the Yehu-Sama are known to be capable of almost miraculous deeds. The Gods and Goddesses worshiped by the Yehu-Sama are as follows, in the order of "Spiritualness, Worldliness, and Darkness."

Samas: The all-father figure. All knowing, Samas has a position similar to that of Odin for the Nordic-revivalists of Terra and Yama. However, unlike the high God of most religions, Samas is thought to have a very personal relationship with each of his followers. His name is liberally used in curses, blessings, and casual oaths, and none of the Yehu-Sama find any fault with calling on him directly. He is also the God that "heroes" and "warriors" go to in death. He is grants courage, intelligence in battle, strength, agility and calm nerves, and is something of a battle God. He symbolizes the "warrior," often appearing as a knight, or someone equally chivalrous. He is supposedly married to Laran and the sire of Sirao.

Sirao: A mischievous God, Sirao is the patron of all Arts, holding a position similar to that of the Muses. He is the favored God of those who found their calling in the Liberal Sciences, the musicians, artists, authors, sculptors, orators, etc. Oddly enough, he is also the patron for pranksters, thieves, assassins, politicians, and daredevils. The child of Samas and Laran, Sirao is also the guardian of the youth, and the symbol of innocence--and mischief. He is the eternal child, and thus, a favorite of those who are "eternal children" themselves--the men and women who never seem to relinquish the love for life and adventure, or the creativity that they had in childhood.

Laran: A scholarly Goddess and the mate of Samas, the highest of the Yehu-Sama ecclesiastical leaders call upon her as their Patron Guides. She is responsible for the accumulation and continuation of knowledge and learning and is often the Deity prayed to when in a bind. Unlike Samas and Sirao, Laran is taken far more serious and treated with a somewhat greater degree of respect, since without her, there would be no thought or emotion--or even life, for she is credited with the creation of the world. She is truly what defines the living and the sentient, or at least to the Yehu-Sama. That isn't to say, though that many geno (the Yehu-Sama priest) dedicate themselves to her, for she is something of a demanding Guides. She is also said to be the mother of Sirao.

Kentok: Goddess of money. Kentok is one God that it isn't wise to fall out of favor with, for she is responsible for the wealth of Balthos. She determines how successful (or unsuccessful) one will be.

Lycon: A love Goddess of sorts, Lycon is more aptly termed a "Lust Goddess." She is the Goddess that those who wish for the physical side of love would pray to. She induces an almost animalistic desire in the parties, bestowing this physical attraction impartially. However, she is also the Guides of beauty, charm, charisma, seduction and the healer of flagging marriages.

Cherion: The true God of love. Brother to Lycon, Cherion is responsible of the emotional aspect of love. He is considered the lord of all forms of love, from platonic friendship to the burning devotion of lovers. He is also responsible for unrequited love. Lycon and Cherion are often considered to go hand in hand, but should always be considered separate deities. Cherion is far more fickle and dangerous than Lycon, for if you offend Cherion, it is entirely possible that you will find yourself either loving too much or too little. And getting back in his favor is a long and painful process.

Ran: The Messenger God, Ran is usually depicted as a winged God, and symbolized by a lightening bolt. He is also considered Death by the Yehu-Sama, and while not exactly feared, is not exactly loved. He is considered a constant in life, and a cunning, unavoidable opponent. He is part of the Yaman, or the Fates; the three Deities who are responsible for the life and events of a mortal.

Cho: The God of Birth. Cho is responsible for distributing attributes and determining where one places on the Cycle. He is the judge of souls and is greatly feared.

Jhan: The Goddess of Life. She determines the events of both the person life, and the events of a world's life; she is responsible for times of peace and times of war, for genocide and mass murders, and whetter or not the meteor speeding towards the planet is actually going to hit or not. Some what of a sadist, she is sometimes considered the most powerful of the Yehu-Sama deities. Most of the religious holidays of the Yehu-Sama (and many of their everyday prayers) are to appease her and ensure that life continues on as normal.

Erge: The Father of Evil. He is the creator and inducer of all of the worlds ills. Said to resemble a beautiful man, he is a tempter and tormentor. As the myth of his creation goes, he was ripped from the planet, a cancerous formation that was poisoning Balthos and killing all life.

Arn: Goddess of War. She is responsible for the evils of war, for torture of captured prisoners, the rape of the land, and the justification for genocide. She is the antithesis of Samas, for there is nothing glorious about her war. Supposedly the child of Erge and his rape of Lycon.

Ratri: Goddess of Chaos and disorder. She is the twin of Erge and his mate. Ratri is the Goddess of psychopaths and cold-hearted killers. She goes against everything that the Yehu-Sama believe in, and was also assigned as the mother of the Ki'ir-arni, who are thought to be a product of her coupling with Ran.

Chapter Four

Date: July 21, 10039 A.F.
Location: Counsel Room A, Fourth Floor,
	 Castle of Lions, Lecub,
	 Arus, Diamond Quadrant.
Time: 1500 STG

Lance felt sick.

No, he felt worse than sick. He felt defiled, shamed, dirtied. For the first time he was glad his father was dead, glad that his brothers were too far away to know of his infraction, to know of the shame he brought upon the family. He had committed the worst sin known to his culture. He had slept with a Ki'ir-ar.

Lance shuddered. Even thinking that name made his bile rise, made him feel dirty. The idea that he...that he had actually slept with a child of Ratri, loved one of the bastards of Ran, plunged him into a despair so deep that all he wanted to do was kill himself.

Of course, if I did, I wouldn't be surprised if was reborn a slug.

Yet...yet try as he might, Lance couldn't banish the unwanted memories of Keith: the memory of Keith's head, thrown back in ecstasy, the feel of his soft flesh, the smell of his hair. Nor could he stop the surge of bittersweet pain from the love he still bore; the aching, painful desire and adoration that flooded his body with a sweet warmth. Each image, each feeling, stabbed him, tearing him with imagined barbs, squeezing him mercilessly as he tried valiantly to taint those pure, euphoric images with the filth that he now felt. His stomach twisted and churned within him, keeping him on the edge of agony.

"Well? What's our attack plan? How are we going to rescue Keith?" The barely suppressed excitement and righteous vindication in Allura's voice rang discordantly with the feelings of shocked disgust that pervaded the room.

"Vat? How could yew even think such a thing? Yew saw the tattoo! He's a slave! He's a lying, cheating, killing, lawbreaking slave! He deserves everything that he gets." Sven's eyes glittered with a murderous rage as he spat out his words. "I only regret that I can't be one of the torch bearers that sets his worthless form aflame."

Allura stared at Sven in shock, horrified by both the nature of the words Sven spoke, and the pure venom in his voice. "How can you even say such a thing! This is Keith you're talking about! Keith, your captain!"

"He is no captain of mine," Hunk growled, bluff honest face red with unreasoning anger. "I can't believe that he managed to trick us all for so long."

"Goddess! Do you two realize what you're saying? How can you turn on Keith so quickly? Doesn't his friendship mean anything?" Allura was pale, shaken by her friends words.

"What friendship?" Lance asked, soft voice conveying the bleak despair he felt. His words were spoken by rote, dull and mechanical, hollow and meaningless. "He's a Ki'ir-ar. The only thing he is fit for is slavery."

"No! I refuse to believe that there is nothing left for us to do! There has to be something, some way that we can stop this!"

"Vell count us out, Princess," Sven shot back. "Ve vill do nothing to help that slave. Unless it is to kill him."

"You bastards! You craven, cowering, worms! How easily you forget all that Keith has done for you!" Allura's gaze pierced each of the men, pinning them with her anger, until one by one, they looked down, ashamed. "Well, I haven't forgotten. I haven't forgotten what Keith has done for my planet, and for myself. And since you're all too spineless to help me, too brainwashed by Alliance propaganda to allow your experiences to be your guide, well, then I will just fight them myself.

"Keith is the most courageous, kindest, noblest and honorable man that I have ever known. He is far worthier of sentience than the rest of you. And I will not have his blood on my hands." Allura stormed from the room, her fury wrapped around her like a cloak.

Pidge watched her go from his seat at the long counsel table, thoughtful hazel eyes weighing her tirade against his own feelings. The youngest of the group at thirteen--only now recognized as an adult by the Alliance--Pidge came from the unique position of not having had the pro-slavery propaganda ingrained into him as a child. The small planet-moon colony of Kevai where he had been raised was so remote and removed from the rest of the Alliance, that Pidge hadn't even heard of the Ki'ir-ar until he had been sent to one of the Priman Quadrant's Space Academies.

Still, the stories he had heard there more than made up for the six years he had never known of the existence of the Ki'ir-ar race; the chilling stories of how they drank the blood of their 'prey' before eating the flesh raw. He had had nightmares for a month after seeing the sheer destructive power of the Ki'ir-arni in a war footage clip. Nothing in the known universe frightened him more than the thought of being attacked by a Ki'ir-ar.

Yet...yet this is Keith. My hero, my idol, my protector. I trust Keith more than anyone in the world. More than my blood brother, even. Keith can't be a Ki'ir-ar. He just can't.

Nervously pushing his wire rimmed glasses up his nose, Pidge cleared his throat, catching his friends attentions.

"What is it Pidge?" Hunk snapped, his rage making him irritable.

"Do...don't you think that Allura has...has a point?" Pidge quietly replied, keeping his gaze on his hands. "About helping Keith? 'Cause...'cause I remember what they told us about the Ki'ir-ar in the Academy, and Keith...Well Keith just isn't like that!"

"Vat? Yew too, Pidge? Yew know that yew can't fake a slave tattoo! Have yew all lost yer minds? Are there any more slave-lovers here?" Sven suddenly whirled, black eyes latching on the pale and hunched form of Lance. "Vat about yew? Going to stand up for yer fuck toy?"

Lance flinched, body reacting as if he had been hit. He began to tremble, face taking on a greenish tinge under the harsh fluorescent lights. "'m going to go take a walk. 'Scuse me," Lance mumbled as he shuffled away from the wall where he leaned, and shambled out of the room, shoulders hunched.

Pidge watched him go, filled with pity for the agony he knew Lance must be feeling. He turned on Sven, normally laughing eyes hard with reproach. "Dontcha think that was a little...harsh? Lance didn't know Keith was Ki'ir-ar when he fell in love. And you know what his religion is like. He must feel worse than any of us."

"So? He still slept with a slave."

Pidge shivered at the coldness in Sven's voice, the disdain with which he treated two of his oldest friends. "Don't you have any compassion? Sven, how can you treat Keith with such...with such hatred? How can you betray him so easily?

"Because he killed my father!" Sven hissed.

"You can't prove that!" Pidge shouted back. "You think every Ki'ir-ar killed your father! Well, what about the Ki'ir-ar that your father killed?"

"That's not the same thing, and yew know it!" Sven roared, enraged. "The Ki'ir-ar are mindless beasts! They are slaves! My father vas a hero! How could yew even think to put their deaths in the same category as my father!"

"How could you not! How can you still classify Keith...How can you conscientiously say that all Ki'ir-ar are beasts, are without sentience? Do you think that there is anything, anything that could grant a being the intelligence--the sentience--necessary to do what Keith did?"

"Yes! Yes! I don't know how they did it! But, there is no way that those...those...chutzpaka slaves have any sentience in them! If they vere sentient, then vhy are they still being enslaved? Vhy aren't they included under the Rights of Sentience? Answer me that, Pidge! Tell me vhy!"

"I don't know! Because the Alliance is fucked up, that's why! Because we've all gotten so used to having slaves that we can't see just how Goddamned wrong we are! Because we can't admit that we're wrong! We can't admit that we've been lying to ourselves, can't admit that we've been doing the exact same thing that we've been fighting against."

"No! It is because they are mindless killers! If they vere Sentient, if they possessed the ability to reason deliberately, to think and feel and posses consciousness, then they vould not kill as they do! They vould not slaughter!"

Pidge paused, taken aback by the logic in Sven's angry words. It was true. If the Ki'ir-ar--if Keith was Sentient, than why were they so destructive? Why did they murder, destroy? Why did the tales of their viscous ways frighten children into behaving, haunt the survivors of the Ki'ir-ar wars? Why were pictures of streets running red with Alliance blood, and snarling, howling Ki'ir-ar drenched in that same brilliant liquid in existence? Why did they wear chains? Maybe...maybe the Alliance was right. After all, they were the good guys. They were the defenders of liberty and justice. They had to be right. Right?

But, Sentients are just as bad as Ki'ir-ar...Zarkon is undoubtably Sentient and he has destroyed entire planets. The Alliance has condoned genocide. There is no corner of the Known Universe that hasn't faced war...Why, then, are the acts of the Ki'ir-ar so condemned? When viewed beside the acts of the Alliance, they pale in compassion. They're laughable, merely feeble retaliation...And if they don't have Sentience, than how do you explain Keith? How do you explain him, account for his mind, his soul? How can someone like him, be an animal?

Pidge shuddered, suddenly chilled by his epiphany, his brilliant mind drawing images and reports of Alliance deeds and viewing them in this new light. If the Ki'ir-ar were condemned to slavery for their violence, then what fate awaited the Alliance? What fate awaited a government that condoned their enslavement, condoned death and war and fear? Fearful rage bloomed within him, a desire to distance himself from this gross, corrupt system filling his soul.

"You're wrong! They are sentient! And if your Goddamned bigotry, your stubborn, bull headed, senseless grudge is strong enough to stop you from helping your friend, then you are the one without sentience! You are the heartless monster, the unthinking beast! You are the one that we should be protected against! Not people like Keith!" Pidge leapt from his chair, cold-rage giving power to his limbs. "I hope that you go straight to hell for this...this...cowardice! This sin! You are no man! You are only a demon clad in a man's skin! God keep me safe from you, you pretender, you monster!"

Small frame trembling with the force of his emotions, Pidge stalked out of the counsel room. Sven watched him go, the coldness that marked his voice spreading through his body, freezing his heart, encasing his soul in cold anger. The heat of Pidge's words barely stung him anymore, barely touched his protected soul. He was beyond words, beyond caring what others thought. Once more the Ki'ir-ar had taken from him that which he loved. All that was left to him now was revenge.


Location: Castle of Lions, Third Floor,
 	Residence hall, Captain's bedroom
Time: 1550

The room was dark when Lance entered. Dark and lifeless, empty though Keith's things wouldn't be removed until tomorrow. The feeling of a slowly ebbing life that was now permeating the castle, was intensified here, magnified until it was a wonder that no one else had managed to pick up on the sheer despair that radiated from this room.

I shouldn't be here...

Yet here he was. Here he was, drifting about the cold, spartan room. It was amazing to see how neat, how incredibly ordered everything was. It was almost painful to see how sterile, how emotionless the chamber was. There was nothing to indicate that someone lived in this chamber, no personal touches, no posters or books or pictures to decorate the barren walls. If not for the papers on the desk, the reports and letters, it was easy to imagine that this was just another empty chamber waiting to be filled by some foreign dignitary. Yet, this was the heart and soul of the Voltron Force, the driving, incessant force that pushed them onward, selflessly sacrificed everything for their benefit. It was Keith's unflagging energy that powered them all, kept them going long after they had reached their limits, pushed them to greater and greater heights. Even now, only hours after Keith's departure, that push was slowly dying. The heart of Voltron was gone.

Oh Keith...What happened to us? Why didn't you tell me what you were? Why did you betray me? Lance tried to swallow around the lump that formed in his throat, tried to see through the hot tears that blinded him, blurred the world around him. He was being destroyed by the conflict within. By his betrayal. By his love. He needed to sit down. He needed to find himself again, figure out which was stronger: the disgust or the desire.

The desk, the only sign that this room had been inhabited, beckoned. Lance slid into the heavy wooden chair, muscles trembling from the conflict he felt within. What was he doing here? Shouldn't it be obvious where his loyalties lay? Shouldn't he be able to dismiss Keith again? Just as he had for four long, long years.

His hands stoked the cool wooden desk top, running over the soft leather blotter, touching the papers, the folders. What had Keith been working on that had left this single spot of clutter, this single sign of life. Lance picked up one of the papers, scanning it in the dim, grey light.

A will? Why was he making a will? Lance skimmed the document with a morbid curiosity, as was befitting for such a macabre subject. It was depressing--in more ways than one--to see how little Keith owned, how little evidence there would be that he existed once he died. Even less, now that all these possessions were no longer his to give, repossessed by the Alliance as contraband, just more items to sell in an auction.

Wonder what the Alliance is going to do when they realize all they're going to get from him are a bunch of books and some weapons? Lance smiled at the vindictive thought. The smile faded, though, as his thoughts took a darker turn. Gods, this would be so much easier if he had just died...There wouldn't be any confusion then.

His name suddenly caught his eye, and Lance read the two short sentences that followed.

"To Lance: I leave what was and will always be his. My heart, my love, my soul. I won't stop loving you until all the stars die. First drawer on the right. Ask Nanaki if you want to know what it means."

The tears that had clouded his eyes began to fall, bitter, angry tears of pain. How can you say that you still love me, Keith? You can't still love me! You never loved me! If you did, you wouldn't have betrayed me! You wouldn't have destroyed me.

Hands trembling, Lance opened the slim drawer. A choked sob escaped his lips at the sight of the slim, silver necklace that lay in the velvet blackness of the drawer. Four years had done nothing to dim the twinkling light that seemed to infuse the metal. The proud bearing of the soaring eagle embossed on the necklace's pendant was still as stern and heroic as Lance remembered. And the two simple Latin words that wove through the pendant's flame etched background, twisted his heart in bitter anger.

Semper Fidelis, "Always faithful." Yeah right. What happened to that oath, Keith? What happened to always being faithful?

Face twisted in a hurt grimace, Lance moved to slam the drawer shut, lock the mocking necklace away once more. But, before he could shut the past away again, the other object in the drawer caught his eyes; the object that haunted him even more than the necklace; the object that had destroyed him.

What in Krge's name is that doing here? Suddenly unsure, Lance picked up the small velvet box that rested next to the necklace. The last time he had seen this thing was in Keith's hands, opened and held outward to Aeris Ilyna, a bit of gold flashing in the light.

Slowly, painfully, Lance opened the box, wincing at the beautiful golden ring that was nestled in the satin lining. His throat ached as he realized that the ring was just as he had always imagined his wedding ring would look, right down to the stylized roses etched into the smooth band that glittered mockingly at him. It was the ring that he had always imagined would be placed on his finger when he married--he had whispered the description to Keith one perfect summer night when they had been on leave on Pelos. How could Keith have given something so beautiful, so secret to someone else?

Anger flared within him, and the hurt feelings that had slowly begun to die returned with the same intensity as that night four years ago, when he saw Keith proposing to Aeris. How could he have even thought of joining Allura in fighting for Keith's freedom? How could he even have considered the idea letting his heart rule him, turning his back on everything he believed in, to sooth the painful, beautiful love that burned his soul, for Keith; how could he have thought of giving up his life for that betraying, lying bastard?

Sobbing, filled with the same pain that had consumed him four years ago, Lance stumbled out of the room and into the hall. He wanted to destroy the ring, wanted to hurl it into the nearest star, so he would never have to see it again, never have to see the evidence of Keith's betrayal. Filled with this sudden resolve to destroy the ring, Lance yanked the box open and pulled the ring free form its stain nest. As the golden band flew free from the satin, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor behind it, released from the crevice that it had been stuffed into. Curious, Lance picked it up, opening its many folds until it lay bare before him, only as large as his palm and filled with Keith's small, neat handwriting.

"Bet you never thought you'd be to proposed to from a piece of paper, huh Lance. But, since I'm probably going to be too chicken to do this properly, to say just how much you move me, how much I love you, without having my tongue tied up in knots, I'll let the words of the Bard do it for me.

'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
O dear Lance, I am ill at these numbers;
I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
I love thee best, O most best, believe it.
Thine evermore most dear sir, whilst
this machine is to him, Keith.'

Okay, it wasn't exactly a direct quote, but that's how I feel. Lance, I love you more than anything and I want to be with you forever. Will you marry me?"

Oh Gods, Keith. Why didn't you tell me this? Why didn't...why didn't I know about this? Oh Keith, I'm so sorry.
More heartbroken than before, Lance collapsed against the hallway's wall. The tears that fell now, the tears that stained the paper, were tears of grief, now. Grief at all that time wasted, all that time where his stupid assumption had caused them both so much pain. He was filled with an urge to flee this castle, to flee the planet, to go somewhere where no one had ever heard of the Alliance, or slavery, or Ki'ir-ar or even Voltron. He wanted to cry. He wanted to kill something. He wanted to die.

He wanted Keith.

But, he couldn't be with Keith. No matter what he might have thought before, the idea of breaking the sole commandment of his religion terrified him. Without his faith, he was...nothing. He would be branded a sivana, a betrayer, shunned by everyone he knew, everyone he loved.

Sirao, help me. Please, Lord, show me what I'm supposed to do. I...I don't want to lose Keith that would be more pain than I think I could ever bear. But, I don't want to lose my Gods either. I don't know what your plan is for me I don't know which way I should turn.

Please, Sirao, tell me what I should do.

Lance knew that his silent prayer would not be answered. The Gods had more important things to do than look down on one lonely, aching half-breed. Still, the very act warmed him, comforted him, gave him some small strength.

It would be nice if Sirao spoke with me, though...

"Remember, child: Han y'lam Gervan, esa j'har Sai. Do what you belive is right and damn them who say otherwise."

Lance's eyes flew open in shock, the soft voice that whispered in his ear frightening him. He knew, without quite knowing how, that his prayer had been answered; that Sirao, his patron God, had himself answered the silent call.

Filled with a new purpose, a new resolve, Lance stood, clutching the ring so tightly that the images on the band imprinted themselves into the flesh of his palm. Keith was going to live, even if Lance had to be burned in his place.

I'm going to make everything right, Keith. I promise.


Location: Lion's Mane Inn, Foran St.
	 Asal, Lecub.
Time: 1700 STG

Arai, proprietor of the Lion's Mane was no stranger to the Voltron Force. As the only source of alcohol within a twenty kiv radius of the Castle of Lions, Arai was ensured of a steady business, catering to the baser needs of the male members of the Force. In the two years that the Force had been on Arus, Arai had been privy to sides of the defenders of his planet that many of his fellow citizens never dreamed existed. He had seen them in joy and anger; alone and together; listened to their woes and their triumphs. And nothing told to him by a drunken pilot was ever repeated. If there were one thing that described Arai perfectly, it was discretion.

Hunk and Sven knew this well, and it was for those reasons--the discretion just as much as the haze the alcohol would bring--that the two had been ensconced in the small, private booth for the past two hours. But, there was only so much that the alcohol could do, and as the sweet warmth of the Oak brandy spread through his system, Hunk found his irrational rage fading. In the place of that fury rose shame. Shame at the way he had behaved, shame for the way that he had turned on Keith, letting his personal griefs could his mind; shame at the way he had let Sven treat Lance and Pidge who had done no wrong other than believe in the wrong man. Even Hunk had felt it hard not to love Keith; a decade was a long time to hold a grudge, and Keith had always had an inordinate amount of charisma. But he had done the right thing, right? He had followd his orders--like he had always followed his orders--and to began to doubt himself now, doubt what had been drilled into his head for ten years, was ludicrous. Right?

Still...This was Keith, after all, the most fanatical supporter of the Alliance ever born. Even the founders couldn't have had the same passion that for their creation that he did. Even HE didn't have that passion, and HE was the embodiment of the Alliance, the face of the Alliance.

Hells, Hunk didn't have that kind of fanaticism and he had been created by the Alliance, for the Alliance.

Maybe I did overreact, he mused. I mean, look at the way Keith reacted. You can't fake shock like that. Maybe I was too harsh. What's the point in breaking Keith? He serves HIS purpose better whole. Hunk glanced at his companion, wondering what Sven was thinking, wondering how much of the truth his friend could be told. Hunk was a little lonely, to tell the truth; he wanted a friend to share his secret, a friend to commiserate with. And it hurt to live a lie, wounded a soul that had been raised to speak only truth. Perhaps, Sven would be the friend who would share his secret, the friend who would understand him.

But could he risk it? Could he compromise his mission, risk HIS wrath all for the selfish desire of human contact? It was dangerous footing at best, but perhaps it could be done, could be risked. Sven wasn't one to betray the Alliance; perhaps he would understand. Besides, in his current inebriated state, the whole conversation could be passed off as a drunken hallucination. Still, it had to be done carefully; Sven had to be tested, measured to see how strong he was, how much he loved the Alliance. He was one that must be led gently down the path, not pushed or forced, but tricked until the new idea was absorbed completely. To arouse his suspicions would be to arouse his defenses and that would never do. Besides, how better to test Sven's feelings than to take the opposite side, pretend to be questioning his own beliefs?

"Hey, Sven?" Hunk questioned softly. Sven grunted in reply. "Do you think that maybe...maybe we went over board back there?"

"No," Sven replied curtly.


"No buts. Keit--it--is a slave. It's going to be burned like the murdering, law-breaking scum that it is. That's that. And Allura and Pidge are only deluding themselves if they think otherwise." Sven's voice was cold and steady, with no evidence of the wine that he had just consumed.

"But how can you be so sure? 'It' is Keith after all. He can't be capable of everything that they say he did."

Sven snorted. "Yew should read the beast's psych profile, then. It's capable of anything--just like an animal. Its fanatical loyalty is legendary. Vhy do yew think it became a Captain so young? Because it is controllable."

"But...but Sven, if he were a Ki'ir-ar, don't you think he would have done something, well, Ki'ir-ar-ish? I mean, Allura's the leader of one of the Original Five. There were so many opportunities for him to kill her and make it look like an accident."

"Yew give it too much credit, Hunk. The Ki'ir-ar aren't capable of such intelligent decisions." Sven paused, hard, black eye focusing piercingly on his drinking companion. "Vhy these questions, Hunk? Are yew going soft on me too?"

Hunk flinched at the scorn in Sven's voice, hurt even though his questions were all just a sham. "No, no. Nothing like that. I hate the Ki'ir-ar just as much as you do."

"I doubt that," Sven chuckled bitterly. "No one can hate the Ki'ir-ar as much as I."

"Well, how do you know? What was so horrible about what they did to you, huh?"

"They destroyed my life. They killed my father; they destroyed my mother. It's because of them that my parents died. If my father hadn't died, my mother wouldn't have killed herself. They took everything I loved away from me then, and they did it again today.

"Do yew know vat it's like to be told that yer father, yer hero won't be coming home? Do yew know vat it's like to valk into a room and see yer mother's body hanging from the ceiling?" Sven trembled, the dark memories looming once more in his mind, the image of his mother's purple face drifting before his eyes once more. "Yew are the only one left that I love that the Ki'ir-ar have not taken away from me. Do yew know vat that's like? Until yew do, yew can't say that yew hate the Ki'ir-ar as much as I do."

Hunk nodded slowly, the soft words stirring an empathic sorrow for his friend that he had thought impossible. He pushed the brandy decanter closer to Sven, vowing that he would sit beside his friend, comfort him as he drank himself to oblivion, and watch over him until he returned.

As Sven continued on his path to liver faliure, Hunk allowed himself a small smile of victory. Sven was a bitter soul, and bitter souls were always so easy to mold. HE would like this new edition to the purpose; or at least, HE would after Hunk convinced HIM that Sven was a valuable asset. But that wouldn't be hard at all; Hunk deserved this, after all his years of unwavering dedication, after the blind obedience with which he had served. They owed him. And if he had to be contrite and subordinate and sniviling--well, so be it. He wanted Sven. And that was all there was to it.

And they said I couldn't act.

The brandy burned his tongue as he took a sip and Hunk welcomed the pain. Pain was good, pain was wonderful, pain was beautiful. But, as he raised his glass in a silent toast to HIM and his purpose, a small, niggling doubt ran through his mind: what if they were wrong


Location: Castle of Lions, Fifteenth Floor, 
	 Communication Room C.
Time: 1840 STG

Pidge was panting by the time he reached the fifteenth floor, and cursing in every language he knew. He'd been looking for the Princess for two hours and forty minutes, and he wasn't even halfway done with his search.

"This castle has too many Goddamn rooms. What do they need them all for anyway? And why the hell didn't they install a lift?" Pidge leaned against the cool metal wall of the corridor, waiting for his heart to stop racing and glaring at the newest row of doors to investigate. "Damn it, Allura. Couldn't you have picked a room closer to the ground floor to run off to?"

Sighing, he straightened and pushed his glasses back up his nose, raking a hand through his chestnut curls. He stretched out his tired legs, shivering at the chill caused by his damp undershirt. Punching in the Castle's Master Code on the door's keypad, Pidge prepared himself for another Princess-less room.

"-can't believe you!" An unseen Allura yelled in rage.

Pidge froze, eyes widening at the shout. What the hell?

"Allura, love, he's a murderer! I was just protecting you!" Lotor replied, voice contrite and lacking his normal arrogance.

Pidge sucked in a shocked breath at the sound of Lotor's voice. What's the Princess doing talking to him? And why does he sound so familiar with her? I thought they were enemies!

"Lotor, I know you were only trying to help me, but really, you have to learn to let me deal with things on this end on my own. Your father still has it in for my planet, and you can't just take away one of my pilots like that. It's going to take weeks to get them all talking again." Allura sighed in exasperation.

"I'm sorry. It's just that when I learned what Keith was, I was just so frightened for your safety." Lotor sighed as well. "I'll hold off my father for as long as possible."

"Thank you. Are we still on for tomorrow? Do you think you can get away long enough to meet me?"

"Of course. Wild robeasts couldn't keep me away. I love you."

"I love you too, Lotor. Until tomorrow."

This was too much for Pidge. First, Allura was treating Lotor like a friend! More than a friend, like a, well, a lover! And she was inviting that menace to Arus? Well, Pidge wasn't going to stand for it.

"Allura!" Pidge rushed into the room, waving his laser wildly. He wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to fire at, but just holding the weapon gave him a small modicum of comfort. "What do you think you're doing? Are you under some kind of spell or something? How can you even think of inviting Lotor here!"

Allura started guiltily, spinning around to face the enraged pilot. "Pidge! I can explain!"

"Oh really. Well, start explaining then." Pidge folded his arms and glared at Allura. "I'd love to hear it."

Allura folded her hands and looked down at her lap. "Lotor...Lotor and I have an...agreement of sorts. Well, more than an agreement, really. I...I'm engaged to him--willingly."

"Uh huh."

"When...when Lotor captured me that first time, we, well, we got to talking. Pidge, I felt this...this connection with Lotor that I never felt before. It was just so easy to relate to him. To stop being a Princess and just be Allura. Well, after I got through being pissed at him for being captured that is. And...and after you guys rescued me, I couldn't stop thinking about him. I couldn't stop dreaming about him. So I contacted him. And one thing led to another, and we...well, we eventually got engaged." Allura smiled slightly, remembering how open, how vulnerable Lotor could be when it was just the two of them. She could see the goodness in him, see where it peeked through despite his father's evil ways.

"And the fact that he wants to destroy your planet, enslave your people and torture and execute your friends didn't enter your mind at all? Allura, he's a bona fied bastard! He's destroyed hundreds of thousands of planets! Ruined more lives than I can even count!"

"Pidge, he's not like that! When his father dies and he takes over-"

"What, you're planning to assassinate Zarkon or something?"

"Maybe. I don't know! All I know is that he's promised to end this stupid war! Didn't you notice how...easy the attacks have been since Lotor took over? And how Arus is finally healing? How most of the recent attacks were on other planets?"

"You bargained for you planet's safety with the lives of the citizens of other planets?"

"No! Look at how laughably easy Doom's attacks have become! Look at how low the death count is! You remember what it was like when Doom first attacked, how powerful, how deadly, and merciless they were! Sven almost died back then! Whole villages were wiped out! And look at it now. It takes us what, ten, fifteen minutes to destroy a robeasts now. We've gotten better, but we're not that good, not yet. If my father--the one person who knew everything there was to about Voltron--couldn't stop Doom, what chance do we have?

"Please Pidge, just trust me on this. He's not the bad guy here."

Pidge sighed and grudgingly put his gun away. Allura sagged in relief, a brilliant smile lighting up her face.

"Thank you."

Pidge snorted, slowly letting go of his anger. "I still don't trust him farther than I can spit, but you're the Princess here. So, who else knows about your...situation."

"Keith." Allura blushed suddenly. "He...he caught us in an...awkward situation."

"Eww! I don't want any details!" Pidge scrunched up his face in disgust and shuddered.

Allura laughed, relieved that Pidge was able to joke about this. She was so worried about what would happen when their engagement came to light. She was sure Nanny would have a heart-attack; though whether it would be because she was actually marrying a prince like Nanny and Coran wanted, or because of whom the groom was, she wasn't sure. "So, what did you come up here for, anyway?"

"I was looking for you, actually. Before I just got about five years shaved off my life from that little shock, I was going to tell you that I was on your side. I want to help Keith too."

"Really? That's great!" Allura engulfed Pidge in a joyful hug, happy that at least one of her friends wasn't a prejudiced bastard.

"Yeah, yeah. It's still a hopeless battle, but I'm right by your side, ready to be crucified for being a 'slave-lover'. Hey, it's almost...heroic, yeah? I bet we'll be written down as pioneers in the future. It'll be an epic, or something. Just the two of us against the combined might of the Alliance." Pidge squirmed out of her embrace, cheeks red with embarrassment, trying to joke past the sudden tightening of his throat which the memory of Sven's contempt caused. And the entire Alliance is like that. I just wish that Hunk were here too.

"Well, we could always claim diplomatic sanctuary on one of the neutral planets. Besides, it's not that hopeless. I was searching through some of the electronic archives before I came up here, and I found several inconsistencies in the Alliance laws." Allura smiled encouragingly at Pidge, wanting to raise her small friend's spirit. "It's not as hopeless as all that Pidge. Besides, I'm sure that we aren't going to be the only people standing up for Keith. With all the inhabitants of the Alliance, there has to be people who feel the same as we do. There just has to be someone who realizes just evil this practice is."

Pidge sighed and sat down on the step that led to the communication module. "It's going to be tough Al. We're going to have to prove that the Ki'ir-ar have sentience. And then there's that whole messy bit with Keith's parents. You don't suppose they're Ki'ir-ar too?"

"No; otherwise, those MP's wouldn't have referred to them as Keith's 'Masters'." Allura shuddered, chilled by the thought of slavery. "But, once we prove Keith's sentience, I don't think that he'll be charged with his parent's crimes."

Pidge nodded. "Hey, Al? Why are you on the side of the Ki'ir-ar, anyway? I thought that Arus was the first planet to ratify the Articles of Slavery."

"We were, but about twelve thousand years ago, the Articles were declared void on Arus."


"Because about two thousand years ago, the first Ki'ir-ar married into the Royal family. Arusians are nothing if not pragmatic."

Pidge stared at Allura in shock. "'ve got Ki'ir-ar blood in your family line?"

"I have more than just that one Ki'ir-ar in my family tree, Pidge. My grandmother was full Ki'ir-ar."

"Why? What brought about this...change?"

"Well...It's a long story. About three thousand years ago, there was a massive revolution on Arus--the same revolution that caused Pollux to be founded. During the confusion that followed, almost all of the Ki'ir-ar slaves on the planet managed to escape. They fled into the Blue Mountains, and lived there in relative peace for the millennia that followed. The Royal family knew they were up there, but my ancestors were all too busy with the chaos of that millennium to hunt down; this was one of the darkest times in Arus' history. Plague, famine, natural disaster, rebellion...a few hundred slaves weren't important enough to draw their attention away from the troubles that plagued Arus.

"Later, though, when Arus was finally beginning to recover, Prince Sokoru, the only heir to the Arus throne, went out to find out what happened to these escaped slaves. There hadn't been any enslaved Ki'ir-ar for twelve hundred standard years--you know how rare it is for a Ki'ir-ar to be born in captivity. As the legend goes, Sokoru suffered some sort of grievous accident and was found by some Ki'ir-ar. He was nursed back to health by them and stayed with them for nearly ten years. He only returned because his father was dying.

"A few weeks after Sokoru inherited the throne, Pollux attacked. The war between the planets lasted for fifteen years, and the only reason Arus wasn't defeated was because a few months after the war started, three hundred Ki'ir-ar Aldersine appeared in Asal and offered their services.

"When the war was over, Sokoru was so grateful for the Ki'ir-ar's help that he married Hatashi, the daughter of the Aerie-Leader who sent the Aldersine, appointed two Ki'ir-ar to serve as his advisors, and declared the Ki'ir-ar legal citizens of Arus, and Sentient beings. Unfortunately, that decree is only in effect on Arus." Allura sighed and shrugged. "Anyway, from that day, the Arusian Royal families have always had many ties to the Ki'ir-ar that live in the Blue Mountains. Some of my bravest ancestors were half Ki'ir-ar. There was even one ruler, Queen Aemai, who was almost full Ki'ir-ar. Wings, fighting spirit, hollow bones, the whole bit.

"So, you see, I have to be on Keith's side. To allow something like this to happen would be to deny my own heritage."

Pidge gave a low whistle of amazement. "Wow. There's a lot of stuff in that legend that, if true, would prove beyond a doubt that the Ki'ir-ar are Sentient. One thing, though. If you're a quarter Ki'ir-ar, where's your wings?"

"Wings are a recessive gene. Only full--or nearly full--bloods have them. Unless they were cut off, of course, but that sort of thing never happens. Ki'ir-ar usually die hours after getting their wings cut off, they're that important to them. To deprive a Ki'ir-ar of flight is like taking away their air." Allura smiled, a bit grimly. "I'm lucky that the desire to fly is linked to having wings. So, what's the likely-hood that the others are going to join us?"

Pidge shrugged. "I'm not sure. I know Sven isn't going to have anything to do with this--it'd take a minor miracle to even get him to talk to us now. Hunk might come over once he stops being angry, but that's iffy at best." Pidge paused, head bowed slightly so he looked up at his friend through the viel of his bangs. "I must say that you're taking this whole thing very well."

Allura shrugged, face taking on a mein of serious maturity that Pidge had never seen before. "It's time to stop playing games. I didn't want to attempt to take back my planet's proper place until the war with Doom was completely settled, but I can't sit idly by when something like this happens. I'm not as young and foolish as I might appear; I think it's time that everyone knew that." Allura licked her lips, eying Pidge carefully. When the small mechanic merely smiled knowingly, Allura allowed herself to relax slightly. "Anyway, back to the business at hand. What will Lance do?"

Pidge sighed. "Lance...God, I can't even begin to guess what Lance is going to do."


"You mean you don't know?" Allura shook her head at Pidge's question. "Lance and Keith...well, Lance and Keith used to be lovers. Real lovers, not just sex partners. They were so close that there used to be a pool on what day they were going to get married. Four years ago, though, they just sort of fell apart. One day they were together, the next day they were on the opposite ends of the Universe. From what Sven told me, this assignment was the first time they had seen each other in two years.

"And now...well Lance was raised as a Yehu-Sama and you know how they feel about Ki'ir-arni. So, Lance is either going to join us, join Sven, do nothing, or kill himself. Although I'm pretty sure that the last is highly unlikely."

"What...what happened between them? They seemed pretty close to me."

"It's a real tragedy, like Romeo and Juliet, only more like Romeo and Romeo." Pidge shook his head.

"Don't just shake your head, tell me!" Allura demanded, leaning forward, voice thick with curiosity.

"I don't know the whole thing, but from what I was told, it started when they met in Cogdah..."

Taken from Great Wars
By Kersey Khan of New Earth

...Doom has a long and dark history. Founded one thousand years ago, as a prison planet for the Denubian Galaxy, no planet could possibly be as terrible--and yet still habitable--as Doom is. Alternately baked by the Red Sun, or frozen by space, the inhabitants of Doom live primarily underground; an arrangement most noticeable in the abnormally pale skin and oddly colored eyes. It is believed that the yellow pigmentation acts in a fashion similar to that of the feline eyes, granting the ability to see in both broad daylight and the blackest night. Though its use as a prison planet ended in 5080, the inhabitants of Doom continued to eke out a miserable existence on their barren planet. The assorted criminals, in order to maintain both their sanity and their lives, formed a highly structured and ordered culture, obeying the same laws that they disregarded as freemen.

Doom did not become a kingdom until the ascension of King Terak in 8892. Originally, an exiled prince from the Drule empire--who was driven from his home planet for speaking out against his father's greedy ways--Terak and his followers turned the hellish prison planet into one that symbolized hope and honor for the entire galaxy. In the second decade of his reign, Terak joined the Alliance and established his planet as one that upheld the ideals of the Alliance. He formed close ties with Arus, and during his reign, created three treaties and a Pact of Friendship. This first kingdom is commonly referred to as the Golden Age, and Terak's successor, his eldest son Mstlav, upheld the grand traditions of his father.

However, it is with Mstlav's youngest son that the Dark Age of Doom truly begins. This son, known then as Dymaitar, is often compared to his great-grandfather in terms of cruelty and greed. Indeed, the similarity is so great that Dymaitar took his great-grandfather's Second Name--Zarkon--with his ascension into power in 9592 at the age of thirteen. Zarkon, who murdered both his father, and his four brothers, cemented his hold on the Doom crown by his marriage to the Princess Kyano--mother to Prince Lotor--of planet J'hor, the oldest ally of the Drule Empire. Zarkon then began his quiet amassing of a mighty military. In 9799, at the beginning of the Lykon Invasion, Zarkon defected from the Alliance and began his takeovers of non-Allied planets. The Alliance, far too busy with driving off the Lykon to assist these planets, found themselves faced with a war on two fronts--the Lykon invaders and Zarkon's massive army of clones and metal...

Part II