TW FOR PTSD/VIOLENCE
it was just supposed to be a research mission. you were the pilot to the holt family team - father and son. they were the researchers, the smart ones, the ones who wanted to explore kerberos. you were just a cadet from the galaxy garrison, freshly graduated and top of your class. one of the greatest pilots the garrison had ever sculpted.
and the first one who disappeared on their first mission.
it hadn't been pilot error that had caused the ship to crash like the high ups wanted the other cadets to believe, you'd been kidnapped by an alien species, your presence on the moon completely erased. there'd been no way to relay a message before you'd been taken and you couldn't help but think of the people who cared for you back home.
you hadn't seen your family in a while, left home to become a pilot. you didn't know how they were doing and you're pretty sure you'd never be able to see them again. your father had already been sick when you left, so your hopes aren't the highest when you think of him. sure that your mother would follow shortly in his steps if he ever passed. you just wanted to make them proud, be the best son that they could ever wish for. you had to be.
you'd gotten letters when you were at the garrison as you were training. little updates and a picture now and then, but it wasn't like being at home. nothing could come close to being the same.
however you had your friends. you had your shipmates that you trained with, the acquaintances you formed. you had people you considered to be close to. and you had keith too.
he had a.... special place in your heart. he was younger than you, angry at almost everything. you made it your goal to be his friend, to take him under your wing and show him that it wasn't all that bad. and he did realize that, he opened up to you and you two became close. he also was a quick study, quickly surpassing your skills at that level. you wouldn't admit it out loud, but you were jealous, you knew he'd be better than you when he got older, once he matured.
but you wouldn't be there to see it, you'd be on kerberos. the furthest human kind had ever traveled and one of pluto's several moons. you were excited and at the same time, you were wary. there was so much that humans didn't know, so much that could change in a moment without a single notice.
aliens did exist and they were the ones who kidnapped you. you don't really know why, but you suppose kerberos was one of the multitude of planets and moons that emperor zarkon wanted to add to his collection.
but you're nothing but a pawn to him, just another gladiator to fight in his arena. lucky for dr. holt, he was sent to a minor labor colony and forced to work there, however matt holt was sent to the arena with you. he'd always been a researcher, a computer genius, nothing like the fighter you were. he was the first to fight in the arena the next day against the reigning champion.
you could feel the fear rolling off of him and you couldn't stand it.
so you called out, shouting that you'd be the first one to fight, and pushed him to the ground. you knew that you'd hurt him, but hopefully it was just enough to get him out of the arena and to a labor colony as well. you just wanted to save him. you knew you'd survive for a few days here, at least if your opponents weren't that hell bent on winning, but they were fights to the death and you knew matt wouldn't last.
it was that action of sacrifice that instead earned you the facade of being ruthless, bloodthirsty even, and you are nowhere near that. but the gladiator arena makes you grow cold. you steel yourself against the other gladiators, shelter yourself so that it's just you and your mind.
you can't even bear to think of the horrors that you've been involved in now. countless deaths under your belt just for the sake of keeping yourself alive. you're lauded as their champion - the most bloody gladiator they've ever seen.
they love you and you hate it.
you're not sure what happened, but one moment you're standing over the alien you'd been fighting, poised to kill when suddenly there's a shearing pain through your right arm and all you can think is no. you believe the fight is over and you're furious, you don't want to die.
with your left arm, you grasp the sword that has become your savior and you repeatedly stab the alien on the ground, your right arm swinging uselessly by your side. you know you're finished now, there's no way you'll ever be able to get home. escaping is impossible.
and then the galra do something you didn't expect. they fix you, or at least, what they consider to be fixed. you're a machine now. your arm replaced with a weaponized galra tech prosthetic. it's heavier than you expected and it takes time for you to get used to it. they make you train with it, flinging you back into the arena and you're surprised at what happens. your hand and arm can transform, molding into a weapon as you please, powerful enough to cut through metal and weld doors shut.
you're a weapon now. you're not shiro anymore, you don't think you could be him if you tried. but you know that you have to try.
and you do try, fighting your way past guard after guard to the ship dock. with your galra tech arm, you're able to fly one of their ships and you set your sights on home. on earth. by some chance of fate, you make it near there, the ship malfunctioning as you enter the atmosphere. you're lucky to even get it close to the galaxy garrison, praying that someone caught the ship on the sensors, sure that the alien technology would set something off.
it's not like you'd be able to remember much, you're knocked out when you crash, waking up to find yourself strapped to a table and doctors from the garrison telling you nothing. you scream at them, tell them that the galra are coming. that the aliens have set their sights on one of the last free planets. but they don't listen to you, you're dead in their books and they wish to keep you a secret.
you feel yourself slipping into the unconscious again as whatever they injected you with takes hold. you need to make them understand and they aren't listening. they aren't giving you the chance to tell them everything.
you wake once more to see... keith? you know you're dreaming, that it's some crazy hallucination from the drugs they gave you. he can't be here, he wouldn't risk his cadet career on you, it'd be stupid. you're in and out of a lucid state, coming back to more of your senses as you realize there are others there with you.
you don't know them, but they came to get you too. the small one knows you, calls you by name, asks if you knew dr. holt and his son. of course you do, they're one of the few things you remember from your time with the galra empire, everything else is a blur now. it's as if your memories had been masked, possibly even erased. all you can remember is the word voltron repeated over and over.
it's at keith's place that you realize that you'd all been brought here for a reason. the voltron that you'd heard about, pidge, that was his name right?, had heard it too. and keith had maps of strange energy emissions in this area. and for some reason, you all decide to follow it. it leads you to a simple cave. at least until lance places his hand against one of the lion carvings and the carvings light up a brilliant blue color. following the carvings, you find yourself in a large room. with a giant blue robotic lion covered in a force field. a force field that lance is able to dissolve with the touch of his hand and the lion opens it's mouth to allow you all inside.
the awakening, for it seemed that the lion has a mind or at least something guiding it besides just lance, of the lion causes the galra to show up. though you're sure it's a combination of the galra following the ship you stole and the surge of energy the lion released when lance started it up. or whatever it was he did that made it start moving.
the next thing you knew was that you were being shot at, the four of you not in the pilot seat were being tossed around the blue lion as lance's less than spectacular piloting skills were used to escape from the galra. except that the blue lion creates a portal for you all to jump through to completely escape and for some reason the group decides to trust it.
the blue lion took you to a castle, a brilliant white castle that seems to come alive as you wander through it's halls. you later learn that this planet is arus, the last resting place of the castle of lions. it's when you're in the main chamber that two... you can only assume they are cryogenic tubes, open and out falls a woman and a man. they're not human, you can tell that from their ears and the way they carry themselves. but they're the last alteans alive due to zarkon's attack 10,000 years ago.
allura, the princess of altea as you find out, and her guardian, coran, explain to you the purpose of the lions. that's right, plural. there's more than just the blue lion out there. together they all form the defender of the universe, voltron. the only thing capable of defeating zarkon and the galra empire. you're not sure why the weight of finding the rest of the lions, forming voltron, saving the universe, why it all fell on your shoulders. you're not quite positive in your abilities, you'd been captured once before and you're sure that it was likely to happen again.
you know that you're the weakest link of the group, even though you're supposed to be the leader. you help pidge find his green lion, comforting and assuring him that he'll be a fine paladin. you're slowly growing more and more confident in the abilities of those that surround you, finding that each of them have their own quirks that make you smile. it takes some time, but after the initial forming of voltron, you're all able to work as a team to form the legendary defender.
the black lion is a bit of an enigma to you. you're supposed to be the leader, but you often find yourself looking towards the others for hints about what to do, how to conduct yourself. and at the same time, you find them looking to you for help. you help them the best you can, you've always been good at giving advice, even before graduating. you know that's why you had so many friends at the garrison. but being a prisoner of the galra empire has changed you.
you can see it when you look in the mirror - the scar across the bridge of your nose, the shock of white hair from stress, the hardened look in your eyes. it's definitely not the soft boy who had left on a mission to kerberos. even clenching your hand reminds you that you're not fully you, the galra technology a sharp stab every time you think that you're somewhat returning to normal. you can't be normal, it's not something that exists for you anymore.
it's clear when you're trying to save the balmerans and their planet from the galra aliens. you manage to keep a level head in battle, something you only learned and perfected during your time as a gladiator. you continue to have flashbacks to that time, terrible memories that you don't remember until they come screaming back into your mind at seemingly the worst moments. they come back when you fight the galra monsters, infiltrating your thoughts and causing you to become immobile for periods of time as you try to win a fight against your own mind.
somehow you capture sendak, one of zarkon's trusted leaders. and he's placed in another tube thing of the castle of lions. one where his memories will be able to be interrogated so that you can all learn more about the galra empire. it's there that you stay, staring at the galra leader as the rest of your team go do as they please - practicing their fighting, cooking, fixing the castle, whatever they want. but you want answers. you need answers. you have to know what sendak knows.
it's there that you hear his voice, telling you of the things that you did under zarkon's care. his voice is tormenting you, toying with your thoughts and emotions and challenging everything that you think is right. you can't take it anymore. you can't take this idea that you're not this great leader that the others all think you are. before you know what you're doing, you're slamming your fist against the eject button before falling to the floor, your head resting against the tube that sendak used to reside in. you know you've failed. your mind won't let you believe anything besides that.
thankfully some of sendak's memories were captured and the team learns of a galra transport hub. everyone agrees that they need to infiltrate the base and find out what else they can learn. pidge wants to extract information from the base, but your galra arm is the only thing that can communicate easily with the ship. so you and allura, who can use her altean physiology to look like a galra soldier, sneak on and try to get the information you need. somehow you're found out and they begin trying to capture you.
you manage to wield a door shut with your arm, but not long enough before they start breaking through again. you remember yelling at allura, screaming for her to get into the ship with you so that you two can leave safely. but she doesn't listen, waiting until the last moment before throwing you into the closing doors of the ship and you can't do anything but watch as they capture her and drag her away.
once again, you've failed your friends.
the decision then is easy. you need to rescue allura. you can't let her be a prisoner of zarkon, you can't let her undergo what you went through as well. it's when you're finally there, in front of zarkon's main ship that you freeze. it's as if he's taken over your mind after forcing voltron to disassemble. he has the black lion in his grasp, forcing her to eject you and fall into space. keith tries to fight on your behalf, trying to take zarkon on one on one, even against coran's urging.
all you can do is hope and fight your way back to the black lion, trying anything you can to take out zarkon. you don't get there right away. not at first. you run into haggar, one of the witches that adivse zarkon. the one person who has the ability to absolutely destroy you. she toys with your mind, making you believe that everything is lost.
that you're not strong enough to fight against her, you don't have the ability to defeat zarkon, you just can't. forming voltron is useless and you fall into the darkness as you face yourself. the gladiator you versus the voltron paladin you. it's some miracle that you're able to escape her powers, though you realize it's because allura and hunk came to your rescue.
somehow you manage to get back inside your lion, despite zarkon being the previous paladin of her and you can tell from the black bayard that he has when he's fighting keith. you use the black lion to knock zarkon away, allowing for you and keith to return to the ship and for allura to begin a portal out of that corner of the universe.
the ship is almost through the portal when haggar hits it with her lightning, causing it to become unstable. it's in a flash that you realize that black has fallen out of the ship's bay and you can't steady her enough to bring her back to the ship. the collapsing portal's pull strong enough to drag you and black into the portal.