Pidge is a hacker, she owns that derisive title now. Even though these guys are nominally their allies and have been working extra hard to help them and feed them actual food... There's no WiFi and no chance to hack anyone else so into their systems she goes before she's driven bonkers with boredom.
It's interesting, if mostly a lot of dry, boring intelligence written in military speak. The barely hidden forum boards are more interesting, and some of the wild speculation and graphically depicted fantasy porn sends her into giggle fits, but it's not enough to hold her interest that long.
For want of more data she goes searching through the medical system files. After all, these guys look human, but so does Allura kind of. 'Common space faring colony style alien ancestors' is the growing consensus. For the most part everything seems to check out on the weirdness front. Mental abilities off the charts, able to ingest materials otherwise hazardous to regular carbon based life forms, high exposure to mind wiping creatures...
She slows down and back tracks. GF compatibility goes hand in hand with loss of memory. There's even a handy chart, these guys are big on their visual aids. Efforts are made to counteract the effect, 'chronometers' and 'scheduled rotations', but apparently the cost isn't considered high enough anyone stops. Figures.
The 'discharge' and 'death' rates sky rocket after 'initial graduation'. She keeps finding references to 'overwhelming evidence of sustained, untreated injury'. Torture, in other words. She looks at the dates, and sure enough most are from before this 'war' everyone keeps talking about, Squall really has tried to turn the place upside down and fix it. He's like a really efficient Kieth, all obsessive focus and oblivious to anything but the goal. Except he's also a lot like Shiro.
Pidge can totally see Squall attacking them, so the Galra take him instead.
But Keith is an Alpha, and Shiro's an Omega.
Well, these guys aren't human, really, so maybe they don't have those kinds of gender structures. She's already looking through the data, it's not hard to do a search...
There are no Omegas in SeeD. A statistical impossibility given there's plenty of Betas and Alphas, and everyone gets recruited way before puberty. Maybe they have a different word for it? But no, all of the 'former staff'' are listed as Omegas. Just not the students. There is a fourth gender though. Null.
She does a cross reference through the medical files and sure enough, all cadets that register as Null have a heavy regiment of prescribed drugs and medical check ups, and almost all of them wash out before ever reaching graduation. Squall Leonhart has a file that if it was in paper would take up a whole cabinet drawer. The pictures make Pidge want to both throw up, and taser someone. Growth hormones, steroids, 'alignment enhancers', all kinds of thing to take an Omega, and make them into... whatever he is now.
Side effects included mental instability, social withdrawal, stunted growth, asexuality and 'increased tendency to self harm'. In a place where torturing yourself in order to hit the bad guys harder was considered normal.
'Is it any worse than what the Galra did to Shiro?' some part of her brain asks. 'He's shattered, broken inside and he doesn't remember what all happened.'
'*Yes*,' she snarls back, slamming her laptop shut and getting up to hunt out Lance and Hunk. 'Yes it's worse, they were his friends and family. Not someone who kidnapped him and did it to him, they made him do it to himself.'
It's a neat plan, and one that Pidge vindictively prides herself on. They have healing tech in the castle that the SeeD have never seen. The medical pods might be able to do something for the mess that is Leonhart's shoulder. If nothing else it won't hurt to try.
Won't hurt the shoulder.
Allura is all for showing off the castle and what she can give to this alliance outside of Voltron and the SeeD are more than happy to put off this dreaded diplomatic conference a few more hours. No one wants to face the music even though it's inevitable.
“So I just sit in a pod for a while?”
“You'll be asleep while the fluid supports you and the castle heals you. The fluid in the pod is oxygen rich, so you can't drown, and the mana particles suspended in it are readily absorbed by your bloodstream to flow where your body needs it most.”
“So why the Sleep?”
“Well... you are just floating naked in a vat of goo. What else are you gonna do?” Lance pointed out.
“It can't hurt to try, right?” Shiro and his instinctive, unwavering support in the face of difficulty and injury. Have broken kid, will fix with mothering. Pidge thought about all the ways you could beat someone up 'for their own good'. All the small, unasked for gifts of time, companionship, attention...
A military commander didn't have the time and energy to waste like that. The guy had tried to make friends with Lance.
He'd offered them his people, the one thing he really cared about.
“Joy. A nap before being forced to stay awake through Carroway's threats.”
“We'll protect you from the angry daddy, Boss-man. Go get in your goo bath.”
Pidge probably shouldn't be surprised that the guy least happy about the possible outcome is Dincht. He's the only one of the S rank who actually volunteered to join up. The guy who put every effort into being in advanced classes along side Leonhart. His records don't show it, but Pidge has seen the guy fight, he's no where near the magic user any of the rest are, which means he hasn't worked that angle as hard. He probably remembers more than any of them.
And he's no idiot.
But he totally is a stubborn Alpha asshole sometimes. Like right now, bristling up in everyone's grill because he's petrified his precious 'Babe' might come out of the pod 'different'. Like a sudden switch is gonna flip and the biggest badass on the planet will lose his balls or something. Pidge really wants to smack him with her boyard.
Shiro is giving them all the 'I'm very disappointed in you' look, which does make her feel a bit guilty about leaving him out of the fix-it plan. Except if they'd told him, he'd have felt obligated to tell Squall, and Squall is messed up in the head enough he might have refused the chance to find out.
Boys are stupid and stubborn, and Pidge is kind of glad they just assumed she was pretending to be one because she's way too smart for that crap.
The boy who went into the tank was fish belly pale and scarred like a meat grinder accident. The boy who comes out has the same unhealthy pallor, but a lot of the smaller, newer marks are gone. The worst, roughest, oldest wounds are still there though. Even magic can't erase everything it seems. Or maybe it's just that Time won't let them take away things that have already happened so easily.
It's hours before Leonhart notices any differences past increased mobility and a lessening of chronic aches. No one knows how to tell him what to expect, since no one has any clue if anything's actually changed. Seventeen doesn't mean fully grown, but it's also a lot later than normal for puberty in human-like species.
The conference doesn't help.
They get him out and dressed and placated with coffee and questions about his shoulder before he, Allura, Shiro and a bunch of old guys and a girl with serious fashion disorder abscond into a meeting room and lock the door. Then the yelling and swearing and accusations fly and they agree to mete it out in the training room with Allura's robots because killing things is all SeeD *know* and the Paladins still have to learn.
Squall keeps his face expressionless as Liore and Carroway start up round fifteen-hundred of 'I can't trust you/ you can't trust me' bickering bullshit. Rinoa is glaring daggers at him and giving Allura strange looks, they've barely gotten through the introductory 'These are the nice aliens, the bad ones are coming' part of the schedule and Squall ran out of coffee on the third 'Why is she here, Timber belongs to Galbadia' 'No it doesn't, Sir! We're independent!' family feud blowup.
Despite sleeping for however long they'd had him in that vat, he's exhausted.
And probably coming down with some space flue.
“I'm sorry but why are we worried about these aliens again? Can't we just set up some satellites like before?”
“Esthar had one satellite and someone got it blown to pieces, it'll take us decades to replace it, and there weren't any weapons on board anyway.”
“Well there should have been if you were going to stick it up there to study the moon and a crazy imprisoned sorceress!”
He's tired of the bickering, the in-fighting, the betrayals. He's exhausted trying to hold Garden together and make peace with people who clearly wish he'd never come back from Time, personally, much less the rest of his team. He really just wants to crawl into a dark hole and nap until the Galra come. Gladiator style combat is sounding so simple and peaceful right now.
Pinching his nose to stave off a migraine he wonders if he has a fever. He feels hot and overworked.
“Satellites aren't going to stop orbital warships siphoning off our mana field. And before you say 'well when they land' they don't have to. If it was a bunch of aliens landing on the ground I'd say let SeeD feed them to the Elnoyls but they can destroy us from atmo and Garden only has one ship capable of breaching the troposphere. In short, I can't play guardian angel against this.” He bites out with a growl, loving and hating the way they flinch. Loving the fact they need him, hating the fact they'd rather die than admit it. They'd rather let their people, their planet die, than work together with him.
He just wants everyone to be safe. He wants his people to live. Why is he always the bad guy at the end of the story?
Fuck. He's about to lose it and be emotional in a minute, he's got to stop tossing out sleep for training and just let Quisty or someone drug him unconscious for more than an hour a night.
“Unfortunately your planet is rich with quintessence, the energy the Galra use to power their armadas. I believe you call it 'mana'. Their preferred method is to send in collector ships ahead of the war brigade, to drain any easy planets. Then the war ships enslave or destroy any 'harder' targets. The only thing that has managed to drive them back is Voltron, and we need allies to maintain its condition.” Allura is peaceful ruthlessness and Squall kind of wants her unwavering approval if it means kneeling at her feet. Since that's how he used to feel with Rinoa, he chalks it up to a personal character flaw and tries not to let it show.
With Rinoa it had been a combination amateur love spell and unintended Knight Bond.
Now he figures it's just conditioning.
“Well if you want to tell the whole world about it, you better have a better story than 'Evil Aliens might come, but we're making friends with robo-kitties who might save us!'. That's just going to cause a planet wide panic!"
Rinoa has a point, sadly. She's still beautiful and proud and full of naive fire that's amazing to revel in if you aren't a hollowed out and jaded cynic of a mercenary. Squall wishes there had been a way to tell her that she was killing him, without actually killing himself. There probably had been, but he couldn't see it from his conflicted and painful position of forced emotional manipulation and slight brainwashing.
It wasn't her fault.
If he tells himself that enough, maybe he'll stop flinching every time she's around.
“I'm sorry but this all seems a bit far fetched your Highness.” Carroway's tone is like a steel rasp against Squall's patience. “After all we only have your word that there's any 'Galra' at all. This could be a ruse to gain our trust and take us over without having to fight at all.”
Yes, because what a terrible way to win a war. *Without* blood shed. Without a body count. Oh the horror.
Allura's glower made Squall feel even warmer inside, so he made sure not to look at her too much. “With all due respect, 'General', if we didn't want to take as many weapons from the Galra as possible, we wouldn't have bothered making contact with you.”
Liore kept giving him quizzical looks. Since Liore was dressed in 'traditional Esthar robes of office' Squall couldn't actually take the man seriously about anything.
Victory or Death, the Galra motto. Squall thought there was a flaw in there. He rather suspected it was the 'or' bit.
“I suppose you've got some kind of plan for protecting us if we agree to join your forces, Highness?”
At least someone's hammered some kind of diplomacy into the moron at some point.
“We have the ability to create communicator transponders which will allow us to respond to a distress signal if the Galra arrive. Voltron will protect you.”
“And how long is that going to take?! Defenses already in place are more powerful than waiting for some space savior!”
Five civilian children to save the galaxy. Against an armada that could travel how fast and strike how many planets at once?
No, that wasn't much of a plan at all. But try telling the Paladins that.
Shiro was somewhat safe to stare at, except it made the man uncomfortable. Squall didn't want to make the man uncomfortable. Griever wanted to court Shiro's lion regardless of who it made uncomfortable. No, he wouldn't stare at Shiro because the man was just too nice and broken and... Squall liked him. Even if he was stupid enough to fall for fairy tales and the idea of happily ever after and had a cute smile instead of an aggravating smirk. Nothing good ever happened to romantic dreamers, didn't they know that?
Hyne's bloody hell, he happened to romantic dreamers.
It was like a fairy tale after all, except he was the curse inflicted on everyone he liked.
He couldn't stop the small snort.
“I suppose you have something to add, Commander.”
Squall found himself feeling oddly lightheaded and lighthearted as he shoved his chair back and stood up. “The Galra practice gladiator combat on their captives. If you want to sacrifice the planet...”, he shrugged with a wide grin. “...I'm more than confident in SeeD's ability to thrive under those conditions.” With a half-assed salute he saw himself out.