False Perceptions

Summary: Lotor had lied to team Voltron. He had twisted his words and tricked them into trusting him. And now, Pidge was paying for it. This was a requested work.

BTHB Prompt: Hostage Video

Timeline: Season 6, specifically during The Colony

Disclaimer: I do not own Voltron: Legendary Defender, and unfortunately, likely never will…

Pidge should not have hesitated.

All it had taken was a single moment, a single second of delay and she had failed. She had darted into battle, her shock at the betrayal fueling her every strike, the energy of her Bayard crackling with every quickened heartbeat and every falling bead of sweat on her brow. Her mind was still a muddled mess of disarray and confusion, but that didn't hold her back. In, it guided her to want to drive her blade through the flesh of her enemies with a cry of anguish. Pidge was furious about many things, but one of the things she abhorred most of all was being deceived. And just like that it had happened twice in what was less than a day.

Lotor was a homicidal maniac.

And Shiro… Shiro was escaping with him.

She bit her lip, running harder and faster. While Lotor had been a bit of a questionable individual from the start, she knew Shiro. He was a fellow Paladin of Voltron, her friend, her family. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't have even found the Green Lion, and through that, her brother and her father. In fact, the entire universe owed it to him for building the team destined to free hundreds of thousands of planets from the Galra Empire's oppression.

Now, his eyes were black and merciless.

Maybe that was why she had hesitated. How could she injure her friend when she had gone through so much at his side? Shiro had comforted her after late nights of researching, wiped her tears when she felt all hope was lost, even done everything in his power to ensure that she felt secure among the other Paladins. Because of those considerations, she had halted her plan of action, wavering between two opposing choices. And during that hesitation, Shiro had managed to shoot an electric reata forward, knocking her Bayard out of her hands and dragging her onto the ship. The last thing she had heard was Keith shouting her name, before the turned Black Paladin incapacitated her with a blow to the back of her skull.

And now, because of less than three ticks of her dithering, she was in the hands of the Galra.

Pidge hissed, jerking at her restraints furiously. Her captors had suspended her in the air by a chain that attached to her cuffed wrists. Whoever had bound her had made sure that she was completely secure and unable to escape, with a painfully heavy band tied to her ankles that somewhat weighed her down. She could still swing, but tiny movements took up a lot of effort. Even worse, she was both muzzled and blindfolded, a factor that kept the world mostly hidden from her… and left her with a sense of apprehension.

Pidge quivered her lip. She hated to admit it, but she was scared. Never had the Galra gotten their filthy hands on her, or most of the Paladins minus Shiro and Allura. And from what she knew about the Galra from previous prisoners… she wasn't in for a good time. Not at all. It didn't help that she was blind to the world around her, literally.

Time passed. Every once in a while she would hear shouts coming from nearby or serious discussions, although she could never quite discern the words. She guessed that she was in some sort of prison cell, or at least a separate room where she was the only one inside. The walls had to be fairly thick if they were able to muffle such loud conversations, likely the choice of her kidnappers.

Pidge squirmed. She was helpless, absolutely 100% helpless, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about her predicament. She was stuck.

The ship (it had to be a ship) she was in slammed to a halt and Pidge was swung forward with such force that the chain she was hung from nearly snapped off its hinges (or at least, she guessed it did, from the snaps of metal screws tearing off that were easily identifiable from above). The impact did leave cuts on her wrists from the tightness of the cuffs as she was jostled about, but the pain was nothing compared to what else she had experienced during her time as a Paladin. Besides, the ship's quick stop had brought an idea to mind, or rather, an escape plan.

If I can gain enough momentum through swinging, I could break free from the chain. Pidge began to rock back and forth in the air, listening closely for the creeks of more sliding metal. I mean, I'll still be mostly restrained, but at least I'll have the slightest bit of mobility and be able to search for a sharp object from the ground. It's better than being strung up here, just waiting for my team to find me, or not…

Pidge swung around faster, gaining more velocity with every push and pull. She began to hear the clinks of screws twisting free and hitting the ground, and every once in a while her weight would pull her farther and farther toward the ground. Just a few more… She grunted as she fought to move faster and faster. Three, two, one-

Thunk, Thunk, Thunk.

Pidge stopped abruptly. Crap, she cursed. Those were the footsteps of someone, someone approaching the room she was in. She had gotten so close, just one more swing and she would have flown free. She had missed her best chance at a breakout (and well deserved revenge) and now she was surely going to pay for it.

Click.

The door swung open and the clunk of boots began to grow louder and louder. Pidge yelped when slim but powerful hands dug into her arms; this was no friend. Instinctively she slammed her legs into the enemy's chest, earning her an oof from the attacker. The cost was a punch to her gut, and in response she doubled over, gasping for air. Her captor grabbed her chin and forced her head upward so her blindfold could be undone. The black cloth fell to the floor, leaving her face to face with-

Lotor.

Pidge let out an indignant cry of rage. Traitor! Her mind raced. Liar! Murderer! Viper! She threw her flank into him, but this time he was prepared, and managed to block her attack. The smile on his face was nothing short of malicious, like a cat that had cornered a mouse. He looked too confident, too arrogant, too… sadistic. This wasn't the person she had trusted.

This was a psychopath.

"My, how the tables have turned," Lotor cooed. His fingers ran through her hair, causing Pidge to shiver and jerk away. His touch was so awfully cold, and wrong, like she was being soothed by a monster. "It was not too long ago when you had me in such a lowly position, trapped and condemned to death for your father, a mere prisoner's life." Pidge's eyes narrowed, which the Emperor seemed to find highly amusing. "You were going to leave me to be hung, drawn, and quartered for your own selfish desires. Well, little Paladin, that time is no longer. It is a wonder to see you finally in your place."

This was bad. This was really bad. Lotor looked unhinged, a deranged maniac, and from what she had just recently learned from Romelle, that was exactly who he was. There was no worse place she could be right now. He had her in his ship, captured and restrained, and with immoral intentions. She hated to say it, but she was doomed.

"How horrible must it feel?" Lotor paced around her, his finger trailing just underneath her chin, "To have moments ago been one of the legendary Paladins of Voltron, and now to be locked up, right where you're meant to be?" He grabbed her hair and yanked on it, forcing her to look up at him again, this time on the verge of tears from the pain. "This is what you deserve."

Coward, Pidge tried to say, through her gag rendered it an unintelligible mumble.

"What's that?" Lotor asked. He was enjoying this. "I'm sorry, Paladin, I don't think I could quite catch what you said. Mind speaking up?" His smile was enormous now, his teeth literally sparkling. She gave him a dark glare, making not another sound.

Pidge screamed as waves of purple electricity spread through her body. Lotor held a rod to her stomach, the end at which there were two sparkling wires that dug into her skin. She writhed as much as she could, although the shock was so powerful that it stiffened her spine and made her arms go numb. She was in agony, and Lotor was amused.

He removed the wires and she fell, hunched over, sweat drooling from her face. Lotor lifted her up, his finger digging into her scalp and entwined beneath her hair. He leaned into her ear and whispers, despite being the only other person in the room.

"I am going to rip you and your friends apart," he hissed. Pidge knew that he saw the moment she froze up, his eyes brightening, like a predator about to pounce on his prey. Her eyes were wide and her skin was cold, and she knew that that was what she wanted. "That's right, little Paladin, I am going to tear you apart from limb to limb. There will be no more Legendary Defenders of the Universe, just me, and the quintessence field's unlimited power." She was discomforted, and that was the factor that clearly made him content.

Lotor pushed a poining, accusing finger into her chest. "And you," he paused. "Are going to help me."

There's no way in- The Emperor pulled out a gun and shot off the last of the hinges, knocking Pidge to the hard floor plainfully. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust, but before they could she was pinned to the wall as he undid her gag. The muzzle clattered to the floor noisily.

"Will you help me, Paladin?" His eyes sparkled devilishly. Is this guy crazy? She mused. He literally just told me he was going to rip my friends and I to shreds! Of course I'm not going to help him! I'll fight to the death if it means I won't have to hurt my friends!

"Never!" It felt good to open her mouth again. Pidge relished being able to move her jaw and bare her teeth and aggravate her enemies. In fact, it was one of the things she enjoyed the most. She could be a major irritant.

Lotor blinked. "Good. I was looking forward to doing it the painful way, anyways."

He grabbed the chain and began to drag her out of the room, with little difficulty in spite of Pidge's best efforts. "Come on," he growled. "Let's go speak to your friends."

/\/\/\

"We need to go after Shiro!"

Keith was literally trembling with rage. His face was red like a tomato, and his pupils were shaking like those of a madman. His Marmora suit was wet with sweat and his eyes had darkened like never before. None of the Paladins had managed to calm him down, considering they were in similar states of mind.

"Our goal should be to find Pidge!" Lance yelled indignantly, with Hunk at his side. The two boys had been downright freaking out; they were certainly the primary cause of the turmoil in the Castle of Lions. And while their panic was well justified, it was making it just the bit more difficult to accomplish anything.

"Lotor is the cause of this mess!" Of the remaining Paladins, Allura had been the most quiet up until now. While she wasn't as outwardly frantic and the males, she was clearly distressed, and her constant pacing had been an irritant in the opinions of the others, though they lacked the courage to ask her to stop. "It is imperative that we save Pidge and find out what's going on with Shiro, but dealing with the source of the issue first is the best way to save both of them, along with countless other lives. It is our best option, and the path we must take!"

"Yeah, but every second spent fighting him means another second where Pidge could get hurt," Hunk countered. Of the Paladins he was being the least ferocious, as was in his nature, and yet his face was still hardened and radiating an intensity not previously seen in him. The loss of his friend was a tear at his sanity, being a person who bonded strongly with her and had bloomed a lifelong friendship. "I mean, all of you guys have valid points, and I appreciate the passion, but Pidge is our friend! We're Voltron, and Voltron only works with five Lions. How are we supposed to defeat Lotor without a vital member of the Paladins?"

"Shiro is a member of Voltron, too!" Keith interjected.

"You can be the Black Paladin as well!" Allura growled. "Keith, just because you don't get along well with Pidge doesn't mean that you can completely forget about her! While I believe we should find Lotor and dispatch him first, Hunk makes a strong point."

Keith glared at her. "Pidge isn't that easy to get along with. She's my friend, but Shiro is the head of Voltron, the decision maker. He'd know what to do, which is why we need him. Only then can we look for Pidge."

Romelle stepped in between the two before they could blow each other's brains out cautiously. "Not to sound rude, or anything, as I'm sure you have this completely under control, but…" She gulped, twiddling her thumbs nervously. "Wouldn't it be in your best interest to go after Shiro, since he took both Lotor and Pidge with him? Maybe you could avoid having to decide if all three are with him anyway. And if they aren't with him, at least you'll have a place to start looking." She lowered her head, noticing all eyes were suddenly on her. "Just a suggestion…"

Krolia stepped beside Romelle, placing a hand on the Altean's shoulder. "Romelle's right," she stated bluntly. "Following Shiro is the easiest option." She opened her mouth to say more when the screen started beeping. Coran was the first to run up.

"It's from Lotor!" He exclaimed, turning to Allura nervously. "It's… a video?" He pressed a few buttons, before the villainous Prince's face was large before the audience.

"Paladins of Voltron," he addressed, almost in a casual manner, as if it hadn't just been revealed that he had been massacring Alteans for generations. There was a dark glint in his eyes, one that the group had not seen before, like he had something that he was planning to do. Something… bad.

"It has come to my attention that you no longer trust me. A tragedy, considering everything I had planned for us all, especially you… Allura." The Princess tensed. Lotor looked genuinely disappointed that the Paladins didn't trust him, and that his former lover was no longer at his side.

"My plans remain the same," he continued. "It is my goal to bring unimaginable power, stability, and knowledge to the universe and beyond. After so many sacrifices and losses that had to come about to bring forth this new revolution, I am finally so close. Except now, unlike I had expected, the Paladins will not be standing at my side." He bowed his head.

"Unfortunately," he breathed, "That means I must take precautions to ensure that you do not get in my way. Would you like to see your friend?"

Lotor stepped out of the way to reveal none other than Pidge, bound and bleeding. On her chest was a charred gash of burnt flesh, not life threatening but definitely an agony. Her eyes were wide and terrified when she stared through the screen and to the Paladins she surely knew would be watching. The terror was like nothing they had seen in her before, and it was bone-chilling.

"Just like a tree cannot live without roots," the Prince stated. "Voltron cannot function without five Paladins. It is as simple as cutting the trunk down. Destroy one Paladin, and you destroy Voltron. I apologize, Allura, but this is the only way." Lotor pulled a piece of cloth out of his pocket, soft and expensive like silk, and just the right shade of green to match her armor, as if Lotor had bought it for the very purpose of whatever he planned to do to Pidge.

"Wait, what's going on?" Hunk was panicking, even more than usual. "Pidge! Can you hear me?! Tell me what's going on!?"

"She can't hear you, Hunk," Keith whispered. His eyes were grave, and rather sad, like he knew he couldn't do anything and had already accepted that. He also appeared quite guilty, due to the fact that it had been partially his fault for the bickering, time that could have been spent saving Pidge and avoiding this. "The video is prerecorded. Whatever we see in this has already taken place. I'm sorry…" He looked back up to see Lotor, crouched in front of Pidge, his fingers laced around the fabric and his hand reaching for her jaw.

"Don't look," Pidge ordered the spectators. "Don't you dare lo-"

Lotor stuffed the fabric into her mouth before she could finish her sentence. The Green Paladin squirmed; the Emperor was paying no regard to her comfort as he pushed in the last few strands of textile. He nodded at his handiwork, tapping his prisoner on the shoulder.

"Your Green Paladin is a youthful one," he hissed, grabbing a roll of tape-like substance. Pidge attempted to avoid the action but her captor still managed to stick a piece over her mouth. "Just wait until I've finished with her." He tore off a second piece and raised it toward her nostrils and her only other airway…

"No!" Allura and Lance shrieked at the same time. It was clear; Lotor was going to asphyxiate Pidge, or at least effectuate the pain of it. He had meant it when he had said he was going to destroy Voltron and render it no longer a threat, and he had found the perfect way to go about it…

Lotor slapped the tape onto his captive's nose and sealed it tightly, smiling when she stiffened her spine.

Pidge showed no signs of discomfort for a solid fifteen ticks. In fact, she was surprisingly calm, apart from a few nervous glances at Lotor and the screen, and a mild trembling the watching Paladins could just barely catch onto. She had the wisdom to save her energy for when she needed it, and that was a factor to find pride in.

It was after the fifteen tick mark when things began to turn sour.

Pidge began to twitch. At first it was tiny movements, little extensions of her fingers, barely noticeable to anyone that wasn't actively looking. But then her movements became bigger, quicker, sharper. She would kick her leg or her arm would flex, with the addition of anquiet whimper. She was trying not to move, that was clear, but she was no longer in control in the midst of pain. Even so, her largest motions were relatively small; she was still managing to contain herself the slightest bit, at least.

She suddenly jerked back, her head slamming against the wall forcefully. Tears were speckled in the corners of her eyes. Sweat was rolling down her forehead, wetting her hair and face. Her throat pulsated as if trying to draw in air, though unable to through the tape.

"Pidge," Keith breathed, his breath hitching. Even he had lost his composure now. His nails were digging so hard into his palms that they were drawing a slick coat of blood. In fact, he looked especially terrified. Keith was never terrified.

Lance let out a shrill whine. The onlookers that were somehow able to turn away from the screen saw that he had collapsed into the floor and was clutching his head. He was shaking, much like Pidge, and his teeth were grinding together painfully. Hunk, who was only a few feet away from him, helped him to his feet, keeping his tear stained eyes locked on the screen the entire time.

The prisoner slammed her front half onto the floor. She was writhing entirely now. Her jaw tightened and flexed; she was trying to scream, although with her nose and mouth sealed shut she was unable to make any sound apart from a shrill whine. She began to blink continuously, along with inconsistent shudders.

Pidge's face then became purple. With her hands behind her back she could not clutch her throat, so she held her neck to her knees. Her eyes were beginning to close, and when they reopened they were dazed as she drifted in and out of consciousness. She no longer made an effort to make any noise, only unexpected bursts of movement.

She was suffocating.

And Lotor was laughing.

The moment Pidge had started to struggle he had let out the quietest of chuckles that were barely noticeable. They were so immersed in the gruesome show of events that Lotor was but a mere detail in the background. But then his chuckles became louder and more consistent until he was bawling his eyes out while Pidge was being tortured right in front of him.

"How does it feel, Paladins?" He managed to croak out, "To have your sense of reality torn from your eyes? To finally see the real world when you were once blinded by your false perception of the truth?" His grin grew wider, as if he could actually see the horrified faces of the observers. "You thought you could save the universe. You forgot the loss and sacrifice required to do so." He lifted Pidge into the air by the neck, mindful to avoid her swinging legs. "Look no further. This is what life really is," he spat. "Your loved ones are either taken from you or were never there in the first place. You may dream big, ludicrous dreams, but you will never achieve those dreams without getting your hands dirty… or losing a vital part of you."

Pidge gave one last shudder, then fell limp.

Lotor removed the tape blocking her airways, and her unconscious body greedily sucked in the air she had lacked moments prior. When the Prince removed the cloth it revealed a sticky layer of blood; she must have bitten her tongue unconsciously in her attempts to relieve the pain.

"I am going to kill him." Keith's voice was shaking. "I swear I am going to-" Allura set a hand on his shoulder, giving him a meaningful glance with eyes wet with tears. Both of them were the only two left watching the video. Hunk had taken Lance out of the room, both sobbing on the way out. Romelle had left out of fear and disgust for the scene playing out before her and Coran had gone to track her down, unable to watch it himself. Krolia was searching for Lotor's location and the dashboard silently.

The Emperor dropped his prisoner to the ground with a hard thump. He then went on to kick her limp form to the side and step up to the screen. Droplets of Pidge's bright red blood were dotted over his hand that had removed the gag, but other than that he was mostly clean, a major contrast between the poor Green Paladin on the floor.

"How horrible, for this to happen to someone so young," he soothed, despite being the very person who had brought forth her suffering. "This could have all been avoided, had you not changed your allegiance so quickly." He observed the blood on his fingers in a bored manner. "It would be a shame if I had to torture her again…"

He gestured to the wall behind him, where several weapons and torture devices were hung up and on display: a taser, a whip, a brand, several sets of surgical knives, etc., all items that would completely destroy the remaining Paladins if they were used on Pidge.

"However," he paused, taking a step back into place. "If the Paladins were to, let's say, support me in my ruling of the Empire and my quest for knowledge, no harm will come to the little one. But, and there's always a but, if you stand against me, she will pay for it dearly. The choice is yours. Meet me at Central Command in six vargas, and we can discuss the terms of our alliance further, or else."

The video cut off, and the Castle of Lions was never as silent.

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