Okay, new plan. Team Voltron do not rescue Matt and Sam Holt.
Shay rescues Matt and Sam Holt.
Shay, inspired by Hunk and the others fighting for their freedom, decide that she’s going to try to do the same. Voltron can’t be everywhere, Shay reasons, so she wants to help where she can. She wants to be more like Hunk.
Most of the Balmerans choose to remain on the Balmera, but a small group decide to join her, including her brother Rax. Mostly because someone has to be the voice of reason. Shay is very grateful for her brother’s presence, though, because he’s the one who manages to find a Galra ship that’s still working that they can use.
It’s this ship that eventually liberates the work camp that Matt and Sam Holt have been trapped on. And it’s Shay that pulls them out of the pits and shows them the sky again, sweaty and dirty but free, just like she’d once been. Shay and the other Balmerans offer to try to bring all of the prisoners they freed back to their home, or the Balmera if they have nowhere else to go, but Matt and Sam decide to stick around to help out. Matt in particular becomes invaluable to the crew because he has the best understanding of technology and can repair the ship like no one else can. Shay, recognizing similar traits from another human she’s met, immediately starts spending more time with Matt because he reminds her so much of Hunk. Rax doesn’t approve at first, wary of yet another human getting too close to his sister, but he gets along very well with Sam, who is yet another person who prefers caution over recklessness. The two spend time together moaning about their respective family members and their habits of getting into trouble.
Ironically, they’re all travelling together for weeks before the connection finally comes out over dinner one night. Shay mentions Shiro’s name while listing off the humans she’s met, and immediately Matt almost chokes on his food. Once he manages to clear his throat and explain that they know someone named Shiro, Shay excitedly starts describing what she remembers of Shiro, trying to see if Matt’s Shiro and her Shiro are one and the same. Sure enough, they are, and Matt ends up having a breakdown at the dinner table because he was so sure Shiro had died in the gladiator ring, and now he knows that Shiro is okay. Shay grabs him in a huge hug, trying to make him feel better, and then Sam and Rax join them, and then the whole crew somehow ends up in a huge group hug. After that they all become that much more determined to help Voltron, because now it’s even more personal.
(And just imagine someday there’s this big battle, and Voltron is struggling, when all of the sudden there’s this rogue Galra ship offering support and helping to turn the tides. Imagine the reactions when the team realize exactly who just saved their collective behinds. Imaaaaagine it)