Hi everybody. I have written a new Voltron story. It's set in the DOTU universe around the time when Merla comes into the story, but with a twist to canon. Hope you like it. Pairing K / A. Rating M is because I'm not sure if a few scenes can be covered with T.

Permanent disclaimer: I don't own anything of the Voltron universe, I just play around in this wonderful sandbox.


King Zarkon of Planet Doom had thought long and hard about his recent attempts to conquer Planet Arus. The main problem about the operation was the thrice cursed Voltron Force. The space explorers that had escaped his prison on Planet Doom, after being brought there with a slave ship, had proven to be a right menace. All his evil plans, all robeasts that he had sent, all the magic the witch Haggar had used, all useless for one reason or another. But he would have the planet. And this time, he would take all things into consideration. All aspects of why previous plans had failed.

He knew that his son, Prince Lotor, wanted to marry Princess Allura. But the princess couldn't stand him. Not that much of a problem. She could be forced to comply, be it by blackmail, magic or simple superior force. But any attempt to kidnap her to make her Lotor's property had been thwarted. Mainly by the pilot of the black lion, Commander Keith Kogane. That man, as much as he hated acknowledging anybody else's strength and power, was a real threat. Lotor's reports about their clashes were also quite clear, even if Lotor didn't want to admit it. Zarkon looked at the files of the five pilots. Lance McClain, Pidge Stoker and Hunk Garrett were good pilots, all well-trained and skilled, but on their own, they weren't competition for Lotor. But Keith, well, he was a class of his own.

Keith not only was an incredible pilot and fighter, he was also smart and willing to go to extremes to do his job. And more than that. He had got many reports from Lotor about how Keith had appeared to save the Princess Allura from one attack or another. Lotor was better in sword fighting than Keith, but not by much and mainly if he managed to pull a trick on the other man. And the main injuries that Lotor managed to land had all been when Keith was otherwise distracted with saving the Princess. And for some reason he didn't stay down for long, no matter which injury he got. No, if any plan to capture the Princess, and with her control over Planet Arus, was to succeed, they needed to get rid of that man. But a normal assassination attempt wouldn't be very successful. Ever since the Voltron Force had been established at Planet Arus, the security system had been overworked and it was much harder to get into the Castle of Lions than at the beginning.

Something that the spies he had sent had also accredited to the Commander of the Voltron Force. That meant, he needed a good plan that would allow him to kill two birds with one stone. Keith Kogane needed to be taken out of the equation for Lotor to have any chance to capture the princess. But the man couldn't suspect anything. And, he hated admitting it, his own strategies were by now known to the great strategist that caused him to have that much trouble in conquering Planet Arus. But there was somebody that Keith Kogane hadn't ever gone up against so far. And, Zarkon had to grin evilly at the thought, it wouldn't be hard to get this person to assist with the new plan.

In the end, only success of the plan counted. If his partner wanted to fulfil some goals of her own, well, he didn't mind, as long as he could conquer Planet Arus once and for all. He was King Zarkon after all. And the constant failures weren't good for his reputation.

Queen Merla, the Queen of Darkness of the Drule Empire, listened to the report of King Zarkon about the trouble with the Voltron Force. She had been surprised that a powerful conqueror like Zarkon, and a nearly as famous one as his son Prince Lotor, who had won much acknowledgement for conquering a large number of planets on his own, had that much trouble with just one planet. Even one with Voltron protecting it.

"I see, you have tried to win against the Voltron Force in a lot of different ways, but the mere technical data doesn't explain it, even if the incompetence of some of your military commanders, like Yurak, explain some defeats," Merla commented.

"Very true, Queen Merla. There were many plans that should have worked, but somehow they managed to win," Zarkon nodded, "Which is why I went over all the collected data that we gathered ever since the space explorers managed to reach the planet."

"Yes, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent would be a good place to start. I'm actually impressed that you got their Galaxy Garrison files as well," Merla stated.

"I have a very talented hacker in my services. The constant failures against Voltron couldn't be explained by simple luck anymore. And we had them a couple of times, but they managed to escape again. The most common occurrence was when we had something we could use to blackmail them, but in all cases, something unexpected happened to let them escape and form Voltron, which caused the destruction of several robeasts and ultimately the retreat of the respective forces that were working on the plan," Zarkon nodded, "The main problem by now is that the Commander of the Voltron Force is becoming too good at predicting how we will attack, which makes things more difficult."

"Then let's see if I can't bring in a fresh perspective. But I will demand a price for my help," Merla declared.

"I didn't expect anything else, Queen Merla," Zarkon agreed, "And I might have an idea that you might find appealing."

Merla grinned. It was nice to work with somebody that could keep up with her own mind. She took the files on the Voltron Force, read over them, and listened to the ideas that her fellow Drule ruler presented. Yes, he did have the right idea. And she liked the plan he had come up with. This would give her some very pleasant entertainment and had a good chance at bringing Planet Arus down and under the rule of Planet Doom. And with her way of doing things, and his power and technological supplies, they had a good chance at victory.

On Planet Arus there was a celebration for the restauration of a historical market place, which Princess Allura, as the ruler of the planet, was going to open today. While there were still constant attacks from Planet Doom and King Zarkon to worry about, the people of Planet Arus knew that the only way to beat the enemy was rebuilding what had been taken from them. And a large group of people had assembled here today to see their princess reopen the market place. It had taken five months to clean up the rubble of the attack that had destroyed the market in the first place and then another four to build the new houses around it.

But now, after the work of many people being invested into this important project, it was finally done. Next to the princess, the other four members of the Voltron Force were present, partly to be protection detail for the Princess, partly to celebrate with the people.

"This place has really changed since we first came here," Hunk commented.

"You can say that again, big guy," Lance agreed, "It's great what the people managed to do in comparably little time. Especially as we don't have too many heavy machines for things like these on the planet yet."

"I just hope that this time around Doom will stay away," Pidge threw in.

"Except for the symbolic value, this place isn't a primary target," Keith commented, while keeping an eye on the assembled people, taking his job of protecting the princess very serious, "There isn't any military value in attacking here and Arus, by now, has other places to do business. I'm more worried about the recent lack of attacks. I think Zarkon plans something big."

"You could be right, but we hardly have any way to find out what it could be," Lance commented.

"We can only be on guard," Hunk stated, "But we also need to enjoy life while we can. Look at the Princess. She's looking wonderful again. And the way she inspires her people is awesome."

Keith could only nod. He knew too well how wonderful Princess Allura looked like. But he refused to give into the constantly stronger urge to show her just how much he cared about her where anybody could see it. He had needed over a year to admit to himself that he was hopelessly in love with her. And he wasn't blind enough to not see that she also liked him more than a friend or even brother figure. She had special connections to all members of the Voltron Force by now, but in case of Pidge it was more like being an older sister figure to him, Lance was the teasing older brother and Hunk the reliable rock that, while they all liked to tease him sometimes, was basically the reliable cousin that you could always count on when things got difficult. But the way she smiled at him, it was unique for Keith. But should Prince Lotor or King Zarkon ever notice any kind of attraction between him and the Princess, well, they wouldn't hesitate to use one against the other.

And the past had shown that they could infiltrate the planet far too easily. They had spies around, that much he knew for sure. He just couldn't find them all. He didn't have enough time. Still, he was working on a better system, but, as the technological development of the planet wasn't as advanced as it had once been in the past, there were holes in any system he could think up. He could reduce the danger levels, but, as much as he wanted to, he couldn't eliminate them fully. Which meant, until they could defeat Zarkon and Lotor, he would have to be very careful in public how he treated the Princess.

It was damnably hard, but he would rather hack his own arm off than letting Allura be hurt because others used him against her. In private, in the security of the Castle of Lions, they could be a bit more relaxed. His bringing her flowers from hard to reach places was one of the things he did to show her how much she meant to him. He knew she loved all kinds of flowers and it was one of his favourite pastimes to watch her working in her small personal part of the garden. Nanny might not think it appropriate, but he knew that it was one way for her to let go of everything and be herself for a short while.

Still, he wouldn't risk anybody finding out by being overtly affectionate with her, even if he knew that she would like him to be. He planned to have an honest conversation with her soon, as he also didn't want to lose her, if she misunderstood his feelings. But for now, they had to be very careful. He had to smile when Allura got a small bouquet of flowers from a young girl with brown hair that she wore in twin pigtails. He loved seeing her interacting with children. She was wonderful with them.

The opening of the market place went off without a problem and after a few hours, during which the princess interacted with her people, listened to their worries and hopes, it was time to return to the castle. They had taken a carriage and their horses to the village with Nanny, who was there to assist Allura with her official duties during the day, with Coran being back at the castle in case of an emergency. They were only about a ten minutes' ride away from the castle, which was close enough to not need the lions. There were enough guards otherwise to protect the people and the princess.

Keith performed a few last checks to be sure that everything was okay, before he got into the saddle of his horse, riding alongside the carriage, in which Allura sat next to Nanny, waving to the people that were waving back, saying goodbye to her.

In the shadows of some houses there were less happy people. These were spies that Queen Merla had placed in the village, after it was known that the Voltron Force with the Princess would be present for the opening of some ancient market place. The Queen didn't have any interest in the market place. It wasn't really useful as a strategic target and the only reason they were even here was that the princess had come to open it. While in the past, this would have been used as an opportunity to attack the people and the Voltron Force, the collected data of King Zarkon indicated that it would only lead to another failure, and the Voltron Force being set onto full alert again.

No, their job was different. They were to evaluate the individual members of the Voltron Force while they weren't piloting their lions. They had a lot of data about them while fighting, but Queen Merla believed in knowing the enemy on more than that level. Strategies worked out much better if you knew personal weaknesses of your opponents and outings like this one were perfect to gather data you normally wouldn't gain. Something that Prince Lotor didn't understand. He would have rushed in, trying to use the time the princess of Arus was outside of her palace to kidnap her, which would have ultimately failed again.

No, they were determining how to attack when the right time came. And their cameras transferred the whole recording of the event to the space cutter of the queen directly. She would come up with a strategy to finally conquer this planet for the glory of the Drule Empire and especially her own glory.

Queen Merla watched the five recordings of the two hours long event at that market place. Each of her spies had concentrated on another member of the Voltron Force. Her personal interest was on the main targets. Princess Allura was a bit naïve, as far as she could tell, but there was a backbone of steel in her, which was also noticeable. And honestly, any princess that would take up piloting a Voltron lion to protect her people from attackers, well, she was many levels above her normal opponents. Queen Merla would freely acknowledge another warrior if the praise was justified. Princess Allura was no competition for herself of course, but she stood out against other princesses that had lived on planets that she had conquered.

It was no wonder that Prince Lotor was interested in her. Even if she personally considered him to be a fool. She hadn't openly commented on it while working out the plan with King Zarkon, but about half of the plans that Lotor had to kidnap Princess Allura failed because he was an idiot. Had he first secured his success before trying to have his way with the pretty princess, well, they would have won already. But that was why a woman of her calibre would always be superior to a man. She didn't let her hormones rule her decisions. She would win first, then take her price. And, this time, she seemed to have a very special price to look forward to.

Keith Kogane was every part the dangerous opponent that King Zarkon had identified him as. He hadn't let his guard down during the whole ceremony, even if the other three had done so from time to time. Even if there wasn't any sign of something being up, he had made sure to keep an eye on the Princess and possible attack points. Had they tried anything, she was sure he would have got the princess to safety within a short time, all while already being prepared to counter attack. Yes, it was clear that he was above the level of warriors that she normally got to deal with. And that was exciting.

He was a very fine specimen of a male. His body was definitely well-trained and he had very good looks in his favour. Zarkon was right that she would be interested in him. She was known to take prisoners into her bed, should they interest her enough. That was actually the norm for any powerful leader in the Drule Empire. Zarkon had done so, Lotor had a harem of girls he regularly played with and she knew other rulers of planets were similar. It was the right of the powerful to demand that those they defeated served them. She had a few males that provided her with sexual pleasures. There were some Drules that had earned the honour to be her bed mates, but they were so boring. They always gave into her demands way too easily. No, she loved conquering her prey and this prey, well, it would be exciting to finally have this proud man as her toy.

And it was about time she provided her part of the Drule Empire with an heir. She would evaluate if Commander Keith Kogane was worthy of donating his seed for that project. But at least he was in the closer election, which should be an honour for him. Well, she would make him see things her way very soon. And in doubt, well, she was very sure that he could be convinced to obey with the safety of the Princess.

Lotor was attacking Planet Arus again. He had worked out a very clever plan to capture the Princess Allura this time around. Ever since the failed plan where he and Haggar had let it appear that Haggar's cat had killed Princess Allura with a dagger, but which had been seen through by the Voltron Force again, curse them to hell, he had wanted to get revenge against them and finally have the one woman he deemed worthy to become his wife and queen. He would have Princess Allura, but he needed a good plan for this to work. He had finally convinced his father to give him another robeast to attack the planet. And it was a special robeast. This one could send out electric nets that would fry the electric systems of the lions, and even Voltron would be helpless against the effect.

The plan was simple. The robeast would attack some random town on the planet and the Voltron Force would come out to defend the people. When they arrived, his new robeast would trap all the lions in the nets, which would short-circuit their systems. Then he would enter the blue lion, take the princess and leave the rest of the pilots to their fates. They would all be defeated and enslaved on Doom. His father still wanted them to die in the arena, being displayed for his subjects as his newest, most glorious victory. And he agreed, the Voltron Force pilots needed to be made a public example off. They had embarrassed the mighty power of Planet Doom and had to pay for that. And he would force Princess Allura to watch how her friends died in the arena, then she would realise that she belonged to him and nobody would save her again.

Once he was in position, he had the robeast launched and then just watched how things were going. It wouldn't be long now anymore.

"It's an attack on Toraine," Coran stated at the alarms that were ringing inside the castle command centre, "Prince Lotor has come with a new robeast."

"We will destroy it like we always do," Keith declared, "Let's get to the lions, team."

"We'll show them that we don't want any of Doom's toys here," Pidge exclaimed.

"They should really have got that message by now," Hunk growled.

The five pilots ran towards their entrances after Coran had raised the platform for them. Soon after they were in the ships, flying towards their respective lions. When Keith arrived at his lion, he didn't hesitate to insert the key to Black Lion.

"We need to hurry to get to the place where the robeast attacks. But be careful. We don't know yet which features the new one has," Keith warned the other four.

"Well, probably a whole bunch of nasty weapons," Lance commented.

"I would guess they will try something with a sword," Pidge stated.

"Yes, but the last robeasts they sent all had one thing in common. A special ability that was designed to give us major trouble. Let's not underestimate the enemy," Keith reasoned.

"Keith is right. We have to be careful," Allura agreed.

The others confirmed and the lions flew towards Toraine to help the people.

"Queen Merla, the attack has begun and we have confirmation about the launching of the Voltron lions from the castle," One of the female robots that served under Merla reported.

"Very good. Prince Lotor has no idea that he's just giving me the distraction I need to gain the bargaining chip to blackmail the Princess and the Commander of the Voltron Force into surrendering," Merla smirked.

"Yes, my queen," The robot stated and the hidden fleet that Merla commanded descended onto a part of Arus that was currently not watched at all, thanks to all eyes being on the more visible robeast attack.

The lions had some trouble with the electric nets that the robeast sent at them, which were a major problem for their systems.

"Keith, my lion doesn't respond to any commands I give," Allura reported in distress.

"We will find a solution," Keith assured her, "I just need to find a way around those nets."

Currently Blue and Red Lion were both trapped in the nets that the robeast had fired at them and Green and Yellow Lion had had a nasty collision with a mountain when the robeast had smacked them away while they had attacked, trying to force it to lift the nets from the other two lions. Only Black Lion was currently in any shape to fight and Keith had to use all his skills as a pilot to avoid being trapped as well. On top of that, he was shooting at Lotor's ship, which was too close for his comfort, as it was clear that his target was the downed Blue Lion and with it Princess Allura. He would never let Lotor have her. He thought how to counter those nets. He looked at the nets that covered the other two lions. They weren't that large, but it was clear that they stuck to the lions in some way, taking out their systems. Which meant, he couldn't just tear them away, as then his own lion would fall to the trap. Truly a nasty robeast that Lotor had brought this time around.

"I have to discharge the net itself," Keith decided, "Lance, Allura, be ready for some unpleasant explosion, but I think the only way to get those nets off you is overcharging them."

"Just get to it Keith," Lance growled, as his lion was dead to him currently, "I don't want that monster to end us, just because the lions can't fight. The metal armour of the lions should be enough to protect me and the Princess from any small explosion."

"Yes, do it, Keith," Allura agreed.

"Take care of the other lions, Hunk and I are back on our feet and will distract the robeast," Pidge's comment came from the com-system.

"Alright, here I come," Keith stated and dived towards the two downed lions while Green and Yellow Lion shot their weapons at the robeast, forcing it to defend itself instead of trapping more of them.

"Hah, the idiot thinks he can save the two lions from the nets. As soon as one of them touches his Black Lion, he will suffer from the same effect and then I have won!" Lotor crowed triumphantly.

He watched how the main lion of Voltron closed in onto the other two lions, but when he expected the pilot to use any part of his lion to tear the net away, he was shocked to find that instead of that, he was dropping large metal knives onto the two lions, which caused electricity to flow from the separate parts of the net, making them spark dangerously.

"What the hell does he do there?" Lotor asked enraged, "No, if that continues, the nets will lose all their charge and then the lions could be useable again. Curse that man!"

Lotor shot some missiles at the Black Lion, but the pilot evaded them all without being hit. Finally, two explosions at the downed lions signalled the total discharge of the nets.

"That can't be true. Robeast, take them out before they can form Voltron!" Lotor commanded.

But it seemed it was too late. The five lions were in the, by now, very familiar formation, to form the robot. He could only watch, like many times before, how the lions became Voltron and then, after a fierce battle, where the pilots made sure to not be hit by any more of the special nets, the robeast was destroyed. Again. And the plan had worked so well until that stupid pilot of Black Lion found a way around the nets. He hated Keith Kogane, the Commander of the Voltron Force. Again he had thwarted him in winning the Princess. He knew that he didn't have a chance against Voltron without a robeast to back him up, so he retreated to Planet Doom. He wasn't looking forward to the mocking he would get from his father.

"Queen Merla, all operations have been performed successfully. Number of captives is three hundred and fifty, including, as ordered, the whole children from the orphanage," One of the robots reported.

"Very good," Merla nearly purred, "Now they will have to give into my demands. Open up a channel to the castle. I want to talk to them."

"As you command, Queen Merla," The robot confirmed and went to get the job done.

"Keith, Princess, we have an incoming message on a Drule frequency for the castle," Coran's picture appeared on the screens of the lions while they were flying back to the castle after the battle against the robeast.

"Who is it from?" Keith asked.

"I will open up the channel for you to listen into the message, but without them being able to see you," Coran stated.

"Greetings Castle of Lions, I am Queen Merla of the Drule Empire," A beautiful Drule woman spoke.

"I have heard of her. She's famous for being one of the best commanders in the Drule Empire and she rules over a part of the galaxy that is bigger than Zarkon's," Keith commented on the private line with the castle.

"What do you want, Queen Merla?" Coran asked, trying to not offend her immediately, but after the recent attack he was on guard.

"Oh, I just wanted to suggest a small exchange to you. You see, I have recently found out about the less than satisfying success of King Zarkon's attempts to conquer your planet. I have looked into things and I have decided to do things a bit differently. As far as I could determine, your Princess vehemently refuses any advances of Prince Lotor, which I can truly understand, as he didn't go about it very smart. I personally think he's an idiot. Your princess is a worthy warrior and you don't try to force somebody like her into a relationship she doesn't want without actually proving yourself as worthy. But I won't let a planet like yours mock the glory of the Drule Empire either anymore. My suggestion for this exchange is this:" The screen switched to showing a large number of Arusian people that were held at gun point by Merla's soldiers.

"No, my people!" Allura cried out.

"What did you do?" Coran demanded to know.

"I used the distraction that Prince Lotor's dilettantish newest attempt to kidnap your Princess and win against the Voltron Force to gain a few bargaining chips. I am willing to exchange all these people, including the cute orphans that lived in the village that I took hostage, against two hostages that will make you obey my orders. I am willing to promise your planet partial autonomy as part of my Empire, should my demands be met. I will also position my army as a defence for the planet against other attackers and only demand certain payments instead of taking all your people as slaves. Your planet could be very valuable to me in terms of supplying my army with raw materials that are unique to Planet Arus. You get one hour to think about my terms. A chance to have peace under my rule as High Queen and becoming part of the glorious Drule Empire, or you will have to watch the execution of my hostages," Merla put down her demands.

"Which hostages would you demand?" Coran asked, "We need to know that before we can decide anything."

If he was honest, the other conditions were much less unacceptable than anything that Lotor and Zarkon had ever demanded.

"I want Princess Allura and Commander Keith Kogane. And, as I know you will want to protest right now that I can't get your Princess, think about the results if you don't comply," Merla stated.

"We won't let the Princess be surrendered, you would only give her to that monster, Lotor," Nanny exclaimed, having heard everything while being in the command centre with Coran.

"Ah, I see, a reasonable worry," Merla nodded, "As I said, I don't like Lotor much. He's an idiot and doesn't deserve her. I would be willing to promise that I will keep her my personal prisoner and not hand her over to either King Zarkon or Prince Lotor. But your planet will only follow my orders, this much I could determine by analysing the whole conflict you have with King Zarkon, if I have your Princess as leverage. And who knows, perhaps the Princess and I could come to an understanding about her agreeing to become one of my warriors. I want your planet as part of the planets I conquered, but I'm willing to agree to some reasonable concessions. I can't be everywhere at once after all, and as long as you follow some basic rules, there is no reason for you to be slaves. I care for results, not details."

"Why do you want Commander Keith?" Coran asked.

"Because he is the most dangerous opponent I would have to face from your planet. He's the pilot of the Black Lion and the one that has been seeing through King Zarkon's and Prince Lotor's plans constantly. That man would definitely find ways to mess up my plans, which is why I want him out of my way. I won't kill him, don't worry, but I want him as my hostage so that he can't help you wiggle out of my demands. With him under my control, I control Voltron as well," Merla simply stated.

Coran hated to admit it, but she was right. Keith was a key person in their security measures. But they also couldn't let her kill the hostages.

"I will discuss the conditions with the Princess," Coran agreed to win time.

"Very good. I will call back in one hour," Merla confirmed and the screen went black again.

"You heard everything," Coran addressed the lions.

"Yes. Damn, this is a right mess," Lance groaned, "First Lotor and now that ultimatum."

"But we can't let those people die. All those children," Allura brought out.

"You can't give yourself up, Princess," Nanny exclaimed.

"But I also can't let them die. I could never live with myself," Allura countered.

"And this time Keith can't even trick the enemy into believing he was you, like he did in that snow storm," Pidge sighed, "The evil queen wants him as well. She's certainly smarter than Lotor, that's for sure."

"We are coming back to the castle," Keith informed Coran, "We need to plan and we don't have much time for it."

"Yes. We will see you soon," Coran confirmed.

Forty-five minutes later the discussion had come to the unpleasant result that they were doomed in both ways. They didn't want to surrender either Keith or Allura, but they couldn't live with letting all those people die. Their best bet was actually giving into the demands of Queen Merla. She had also sent an outline how Planet Arus would be integrated into her Empire, should they meet her demands. It wasn't a nice prospect, but far less horrible than what had been fact when Arus didn't have Voltron yet. The demand for supplies was steep, no question, but it would be manageable. Princess Allura would be 'educated' by Queen Merla in how she wanted her to rule the planet for the period of one year and, if she 'passed' the test, she would be allowed to return to her home planet and rule as Queen, with Merla being the High Queen of this part of her Empire.

Nobody liked the idea much, but, should there be no way for Keith and Allura to escape their capture before the change could be forced by Merla, at least the people wouldn't be killed anymore. The pilots planned to follow the space cutter of Merla to her base and rescue both Keith and Allura, but they also had to prepare for the worst. And nobody knew if Merla would keep her word.

"Alright, Keith and I will both carry tracking devices on our person to allow you to follow us to wherever Queen Merla will take us. I can only hope that we don't really need to give into her demands about making Arus part of her empire. The Drules are cruel to the people they rule," Allura stated.

"I know. We will give in for now, but as soon as there is a chance, we will drive her away. But the hostages have to be safe before we can do anything," Keith agreed.

The others nodded, all looking very unhappy about the decision. But Queen Merla held the better cards this time around. They just hoped that they would be able to turn things to the better, like they did in the past. Pidge and Lance took care of putting the tracking devices together in the remaining fifteen minutes that they had left of the ultimatum, while Keith and Allura got ready to face Queen Merla.

That's it for the first chapter. Until next time.