Animal Force

by JoAnn


Disclaimer: WEPownsVoltron.

I stole an idea from Lynn Flewellingís Nightrunner trilogy. ^^; And -- the shapeshifting came about because of, lessee here.. kaie shifted Keith, kaie and Tiki shifted Pidge, Zoe shifted Lance... Um... and Taryn helped with the rest. So itís Not My Fault. See? {beams}

Ack! Almost forgot. {bows deeply to Forest and Taryn} Taryn betaíd in the beginning. Forest betaíd at the end. Fortunately, this didnít explode near as much as Gifts did.

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Animal Force

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Well, well, well. Iíd forgotten about this spell. I think this will be a lovely way to get rid of the Voltron force once and for all. But I need some test subjects first...

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"Well, witch? What do you want with them?"

"Does it matter, sire? You've gotten all the information you can out of them already."

"Hagar..."

Cackling, she subsides. "Very well. I'll show you." Turning to face the two battered prisoners, her eyes blaze and her voice becomes richer, laden with power, her staff blazing a deep green. "Show your true selves!"

Before them where the broken remnants of a space explorer and a Pollux princess stood, are two piles of clothing, one with a lynx fighting his way out, and one with a falcon squirming her way through the pile of clothing. Crying out, all they can make are animal noises, though their eyes have the haunted look of people who know exactly what has happened to them. They attempt to flee, only to be captured by Haggar's waiting robeasts.

Laughing hideously, Haggar's eyes gleam with a not quite sane light. "I think I will start a menagerie. The Voltron Force is next."

Lotor surges forward. "No --!"

Haggar's hands move in a strange, sharp motion and then, between one step and the next, Lotor disappears, leaving behind a tangle of clothing and weapons.

Outraged, King Zarkon rises to his feet. "Hagar, you dare--"

"Dealing with you has grown quite tiresome." Again, Haggar's hands move in that odd motion, and Zarkon, too disappears.

Laughing softly to herself, Haggar gestures for two more robeasts to sift through the clothing. "Yes.. this spell works very well indeed. I'm impressed that both the spoken and unpoken ways work just as well..."

The robeast looking through Zarkon's clothing, lunges forward suddenly, and then falls off the dias, barely controlling a hissing, struggling cobra.

The other robeast manages to get a good grip and emerges with a struggling coral snake.

Looking at her four animals, Haggar smiles. "Four already. Now, all I need to do is add that pesky Voltron Force..." At her feet, Coba yowls in encouragment.

The lynx shivers, despair in his eyes.

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In her sanctuary far away from Doom, Hagar carefully supervises her newest pets being put in cages. She takes a moment to admire them, and to ready five more cages. Then, she settles in her coffin for the trip to Arus, Coba, as always, at her side.

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Looking around, Hagar lurks around Arus, waiting for the perfect time to spring her trap. Coba, of course, is set to spying in the castle, gathering information for Hagar.

Patiently, she waits until Coba reports that the Volton force is about to go off on one of their picnics. "Perfect... Now, all I have to do is wait for them to take off on their own..." Coba hisses in aggreement. The two fade out.

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Laughing and relaxing, the unsuspecting Voltron Force wanders off, managing to leave as a group, to get away from Coran and Nanny...

"Such a lovely day. Just a small bit further..." Hagar strikes, vines whipping around, trapping all five of them.

Not giving them a chance to do more than yell in outrage, Haggar activates the spell. "Show your true selves!" With a dark surge of power, all five of them become struggling animals.

"Hmmm... I wondered why I always liked you, Keith of black lion. I've always been partial to cats." Coba growls. "Calm down, my pet. I'm not going to replace you. Though, Keith does make a handsome cat."

Spitting and hissing in outrage, Keith struggles a bit more, then gives it up as useless, settling for glaring malevolently at Hagar.

Ignoring the various glares, Hagar casualy gathers up the animals. Using her magic to heft the vine swaddled burdens, she examines them for a moment, unholy delight in her eyes. "Nice additions to my collections. A dog, a fox, a mouse, and a doe as well." Eyes gleaming, she heads off to her coffin, the bundles following obediantly behind her. Over her shoulder she calls back to them. "And don't think that either Lotor or Zarkon will blunder into this and get you out. I've already taken care of them."

Cackling, Hagar is very, very pleased with herself, unaware of the potential upset to her success.

---------------

Damnit. How did she sneak up on us?

Magic, maybe? It doesn't matter right now, Lance. If we get out of this, then we can figure it out.

Keith? You can hear me?

Of course... Abruptly Keith realizes that neither of them were talking with voices or hearing with their ears.

Idiots. The cool mental voice slides into their minds. The spell she wove -- she doesn't realize that anyone so enchanted can speak to each other, mind to mind.

Who are you? The five mind voices blend together.

You know me as the Blue Cat. Haggar calls me Coba. And we can help each other.

Keith interrupts. //He didn't tell us who he thought he was// Who were you?

Does that really matter?

Outraged, Pidge can't restrain himself any more. You attacked us--

Of course I did. If Haggar dies, I die. And though I don't like this form, I have no wish to die. You would all do well to remember that -- our lives are tied to hers, unless you have some way of distangling them. I have some magic, but not enough to separate us. Not on my own. The lot of you have magic -- royalty inherently has some, and to fly the Lions you have to have some magic. But even if we all work together, I donít think we have enough to break free. We could, however, turn the tables on her. Do we have a deal?

Silence. Then --

I'm in.

Me, too.

I don't want to be a mouse for the rest of my life! Count me too.

Fine, but I'm sure there's a catch somewhere...

Oh, all right.

Good. Now, maybe you can convince your other two friends -- Romelle and Sven I believe -- to join us as well. Lotor and Zarkon are a lost cause -- they're having too much trouble adjusting to not having limbs.

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Securing the newest animals in their cages, Haggar admires them for a moment. ďCoba -- watch them. Iíll reinforce my defences... Just in case.Ē Coba yowls his aggreement.

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Sven?

What? Lance?

Yeah, it me.

Actually, itís all of us. Pidge squeaks indignantly.

What are we going to do? Sheís got all of us!

Romelle -- wailing isnít going to help. Besides, we have an idea. And an ally.

Who, o great captain? I suppose your going to say that Blue Cat is going to help us...

Actually I am.

Shrieking, Romelle propells herself to the back of her cage.

Everyone else winces and covers their ears.

Romelle -- be quiet! I canít believe Iím a deer and youíre a falcon...

Enough of this! Do you two want or not want to regain your human forms? If not, then just be still and leave us be. If so, help us. Hagarís not going to be distracted with putting up defenses for very long. And we still have to figure out how to get all of you out of your cages. I can handle the magic on the cages and the locks... But taking care of both at once for all of you will take far too long.

I can do it. Let me out first, and I can get everyone else out quickly.

Unblinking, Coba seems to look through Lance for a moment. Then, snorting agreement, he starts to work on Lanceís cage.

Lance? What do you mean?

Lanceís ears twitch. Well. Iím not exactly a fox...

Startled, everyoneís heads snap up, ears and noses quivering in surprise. (Well, everyone execept Zarkon and Lotor).

Lanceís tail droops. Iím well... Iím a kitsune -- which means Iíve got a lot more magic than before... and, well... it also means that I have a sort of human form as well as this fox form... I think I have an affinity for undoing locks and spells...

Why am I not surprised? Svenís dry mental tone overlaps with Pidgeís eager one.

Neat! At least you have hands!

Pidge... You have hands too. No one else does.

Hunk... these donít really count as hands -- theyíre way too small to be helpful...

Could you just cut the chatter! This is hard enough to do with out all the ... babble. Coba snarls.

Subsiding, everyone just watches. Intently. Coba sighs in frustration, forcing himself to concentrate on the stubborn lock.

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After a few more minutes of increasing tension, finally, the cage pops open. Lance tumbles out with a yelp, Coba barely managing to twist himself out of the way.

Tired, the blue cat settles into a heap, grooming himself. Well? You said you could take care of the rest...

Um. Right. Concentrating, Lance ~shifts~.

Alluraís huge blue eyes grow even larger. Wow. Lance looks better without his clothes than with them...

Princess! Pidgeís shock causes Alluraís eyes to snap away and wordless embarassment to flood the link binding them all.

Lance just manages to keep his thoughts to himself as he hunts for covering of some kind. //I didnít need to know that...//

Romelle giggles, half hysterically.

Hunk growls in disgust, covering his eyes with his paws. Sheesh, Pidge. I know youíre not that much of a prude...

But sheís the Princess! The two of them start trading insults.

Keith enjoys the sight of a naked Lance with delicate, red fox ears and a tail switching in embarassment. //His blush matches his fur...// Tucking the thought down, Keith calmly slits his eyes, to all appearances completely unaffected. Hunk, Pidge -- enough. Quit ribbing each other and leave Lance enough quiet to think.

Subsiding, Hunk and Pidge trade grins.

Coba pauses in his grooming, to snarl at Lance. No time to hunt for cover! Get them out of the cages, and then worry about stupid matters like clothes.

But --

You can always use your tail if youíre that self-conscious. Svenís dry mental tone is like a slap in the face. I want out of this cage.

right... Wrapping his tail around him, Lance hastily starts working at the cages.

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Stretching, all of them sigh in relief at being able to move, and being out of the oppressive weight of Haggarís lock spells.

Lance immediately switches back to fox form, hiding his nakedness and his blushes.

Now what?

Coba raises his head. Sheís coming--!

ďWhat is this? Coba--!Ē With a shriek of rage, Haggar sweeps her arms out, black lightning radiating from her, heading to the blue cat.

Frozen in old patterns, Coba just hisses, unable to make himself move.

Growling, Keith launches himself at the other cat, knocking him aside.

Snarling, Hunk and Sven launch themselves at the witch.

Pidge scuttles over and triggers the door shut, denying access to any of Hagarís robeast henchmen.

Screaming a battle cry, Romelle takes to the air, dive-bombing Hagar.

Yelling in outrage, Haggar strikes out almost blindly.

Purring thanks to Keith, Coba stalks to Lance. Now. With her occupied, you should be able to see the spell entangling us all.

Yes... But... Abruptly, Lance switches back to his almost-human form. Thatís better... I think if I just -- Eyes somehow focusing through the old witch, Lance begins to pull at the magic. Coba settles against him, eyes shutting, throwing his power into the struggles as well. Hesitating for a moment, Keith examines the spell, and then carefully inserts himself into the fight, settling against Lanceís other side. Nodding her head, Allura folds herself into position behind Lance, and sinks into the tug of war for the magic wound tight around them.

ďNoooo!Ē Hagar frantically tries to pull back on the spell, tries to regain control. Rage rumbling through them, Hunk, Sven, and Romelle redouble their efforts, keeping Hagar off balance and centered on her body rather than her spell.

With a wail of despair, suddenly, the balance shifts.

Haggar disappears into a ragged pile of clothing.

Stooping, Romelle captures in her talons a struggling black tarantula. Hah! Letís see how you like it!

Youíre not going to be able to keep me like this!

Want to bet?

Coba -- you traitor! You donít know how to magic a cage that will hold me. And kitsune donít make cages. So thereís no way you can keep me in this form...!

Coba and Lance might not know, but I do.

Keith?

My parents had odd pets. Carefully detaching himself from the exhausted heap of fur and skin, Keith wavers his way to one of the cages. Settling down before it, he considers the cage. Absent-mindedly, he ~shifts~ from cat form to human form. Thatís better...

Alluraís eyes go wide, but she manages to keep control of herself. It helps, of course, that Keithís sitting down, so mostly the view consists of his bare back and the back of his head...

Muttering quietly, Keith focuses, carefully pulling on the tiny reserve of magic he has left. Stretching his hand out, a soft golden glow spreads from his hand to the cage. The cage shifts, shrinking, a spell wrapping all around it reinforcing the bars and the lock so not even a spider could get out. Taking a hold of the cage, still muttering, Keith turns and offers it to Romelle.

Carefully hopping, wings spread for balance, Romelle works her way to Keith, keeping a firm hold of a struggling Hagar. Dropping the spider in, she quickly shuts the cage. Keith finish keying the lock, freezing Haggar in her tarantula form. ďThere.Ē Setting the cage down, he abruptly realises that heís sitting stark naked in front of everyone. Turning bright red, he shifts back to cat form.

Umm...

Nice Keith, very, very nice...

Lance!

What?

Romelleís beak opens in a bird-grin. I agree. Tilting her head to one side, she carefully hops back a prudent step from the black cat before her whose fur is slowly rising. And I had the best view...

You blocked the rest of us... Alluraís petulant pout causes Keith to drop his head, and his fur to flatten back down.

Of course. Romelle manages a mental sniff. Iím sure Keith didnít want his assets displayed in front of everyone...

Keith sinks into a ball, just feeling the glare of Sven-the-lynx. Thinking very quietly, Iíd best find some clothes. I have a better chance against Sven in human form...

Coba eases his way to Keith, winding himself around him. Donít worry. Svenís big, but heís not really used to his lynx-form. I can take him.

Coba?

What are you doing?! Lanceís outraged mental tone cuts through the babble of voices.

Coba purrs comfortingly. I owe you, Black cat.

Umm.

Get off of him!

Lance. You can back off, itís okay. He feels kinda good, actually.

!?!

smug grin

Huh. This mental sending is kind of neat. Explains alot of odd expressions ...

Hunk, I really donít think this is the time. Pidge-the-mouse settles down comfortably between Hunk-the-dogís shoulders.

True, Pidge.

Yep. We ought to just be quiet and watch them all duke it out... Allura-the-doe settles down next to Hunk-the-Newfoundland and Pidge-the-mouse.

Sven -- you know Iím not going to chase after Keith. No matter how nice he looks. Heís too short for my taste.

Allura shuts her eyes in despair for a moment. I have no idea what he sees in her...

Neither do I.

Keith?

What? Theyíre arguing quite fine without me. Why should I pay attention?

Keith!

Just because Iím not paying attention doesnít mean Iím not listening. By the way, donít you think we ought to get out of here?

Nice change of subject....

Hey, just because heís grooming my ears and not.. ah... yours... Keith squirms luxiourously under the ministrations of the Blue cat.

Lance glares at them narrow-eyed. Yeah, I think we ought to get out of here. But how? I mean, we donít have our lions...

Coba pauses in his grooming of Keith. Hagar always has a few coffen-ships. We can take those.

What! You dare! You canít operate those..!

Want to bet? Iíve seen you do it enough times...

incoherent shriek of rage.

Oh. This is how you shield someone out...

Thanks! Multiple voices with varying degrees of grudgedness answer Cobaís lessons.

Hagar-the-tarantula scuttles about her cage in a dance of fury.

The rest of them ignore her.

So. Coba. You coming with us? Pidgeís ears quiver, eyes shifting between the blue cat and the outraged red fox in amusement.

Um.

You seem pretty attached to Keith... Coba seems to be trying to decide how to answer Pidgeís leading question, when Keith interrupts.

No, heís trying to bribe me into letting him come without question.

Cobaís ears flatten in shame.

Blinking benignly, Keith continues. His life is still tied to Hagarís. All our lives are, actually. Since we know that, weíre not going to let him take her to parts unknown. He wants to keep an eye on her as well, so he has to come with us. Simple, no?

Coba glares at him. I think youíre a bit more comfortable with this mind-talking ability than you ought to be.

It comes from having very nosy parents.

Sven snickers.

Letís get out of here. And we ought to take Zarcon and Lotor with us. Either that or kill them.

Romelle flexes her talons. Letís just kill them and be done with it.

Coba regards his claws, regaining his aplomb. Weíd save space... You can even take the dead snake bodies with you and change them back into Lotor and Zarkon once we get to Arus.

Lance produces a fox-grin.

Sven growls, deep in his chest, claws digging into the floor beneath him.

Allura mentally shrugs. Those coffen-things donít seem all that big. Itíd probably be a tight fit, even without two extra cages...

Hunkís ears perk up. Just let me at them...

Pidge hops off of Hunk. I donít care, so long as you keep them away from me! Snakes eat mice... He scrambles atop Allura-the-doe.

Allura sighs.

Keith blinks again. Okay. Itís all settled.

The crowd of animals converge on the two hissing and spitting and cowering snakes.

.........

Pidgeís eyes widen. Wow. That went faster than I thought it would.

Well... Alluraís mental tone is detached. If they were smarter, they would have saved the poison in their sacs until they were out of the cages. Then they might have had a chance. Of course, with Romelle hovering overhead, and Coba, Keith, and Lance hanging back just in case, they still didnít have all that much of a chance...

Right. Thatís all settled, letís get out of here. Coba?

Managing a bow, Coba licks Keithís shoulder in passing. Of course.

Lance snarls and manauvers so that heís right next to Keith.

Romelle carefully settles on top of Sven. Sven very carefully walks as smoothly as he can -- he has no desire to actually feel Romelle grip down. Dangling from his mouth is a very dead coral snake.

Pidge moves from Allura to Hunk -- wider shoulders to perch on. Or thatís his excuse, anyway.

Dangling from Hunkís mouth is a very dead cobra.

Looking back at the whole lot of them, Coba stifles a snicker, shielding his thoughts. I canít wait to see what the palace staff thinks of this...

~owari~




Any comments or suggestions for JoAnn should be sent through me with either the story title or JoAnn in the subject line. I'll forward them without peeking. Really I will.^^

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