Songbird 15

Lotor wouldn’t keep us his captive audience forever. Eventually he would tire of listening to us, of hearing the excuses and suggestions we tried to come up with for him. He really didn’t appreciate any of what we had to say, and our words seemed only to agitate him all the more. It wasn’t a surprise to me when he dismissed us from his sight with Doom but an hour away from us. He told us he was sick of seeing our faces, the prince wandering down to the ship’s onboard gymnasium. It was there that Lotor would worked off some of his nervous energy, beating up plenty of soldiers who were foolish enough to agree to fight with him.

I knew better than to challenge Lotor when he was in such a mood. My face still bore the bruises from the fight of a few days ago, along with a fresh one Lotor had given me just hours ago. And all because I had interfered with his pursuit of Romelle. I didn’t regret that bruise, ready to wear it like a badge of honor, and all because I had earned it defending Romelle.

I still found myself wishing I could have done something, anything to make what was happening easier on the girl. But I was of the opinion that my options were limited, and I still retained my loyalty to Doom. That loyalty left me twisted up inside, and all because of the bond I had formed with Romelle. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was feeling a similar loyalty to her, one that had me struggling with every action I took.

I wasn’t yet prepared to do anything too extreme. I was as much a coward as I was foolish, trying to somehow play both sides and come away unscathed. But there was no way to appease both Romelle and my Empire, and more often than not, it was the princess who suffered for my indecisiveness. When I think back on those days, I feel ashamed, wishing I had done things differently. I should have taken her, and tried to escape Lotor’s grasp. It might have been better if I had acted, even if it ended in our deaths.

But no matter how much I wished for something, I cannot change the past. I could only try to make the present bearable, and it was with that thought that I found myself walking to the lower levels. A tray was in my hands, laden down with all manners of food from the commissary. I knew no one would have thought to have fed Romelle, the girl being ignored as per Lotors’ orders. The soldiers weren’t allowed to touch her, and as such they had little concern with her. She was off limits to all, Lotor’s precious fiancee.

Yes, even then he hoped to marry her. Even with the disappointments of the screw up at Pollux, and her violent behavior during her capture, he still wanted her. Lotor held a desire for the princess that almost rivaled his lust for Allura of Arus. Some would say this obsession with Romelle made him delusional. Others might say he was always crazy where women were concerned.

I was of the former opinion, wondering how Lotor thought to make a relationship work with Romelle after he had killed her father right before her. But then I suppose Lotor thought there wasn’t much difference between a pleasure slave and a wife. Both could be owned, and both would have the same expectations placed on them. He probably saw nothing beyond Romelle’s beauty, and her regal bearing, thinking she would make a suitable trophy as his wife.

He didn’t give much thought to her own feelings about the matter, Lotor serious when he said she would learn to love him or spend her life miserable. He really thought it as simple as that, Romelle having to choose between two evils. He wouldn’t understand that to Romelle she’d rather spend her life tormenting Lotor, fighting him, refusing to give him a victory by loving him.

Lotor would never understand why Romelle could be so vengeance driven towards him, the prince actually assuming he was an attractive package. He didn’t understand that his handsome looks mattered little in the long run, that Romelle and Allura could see the true ugliness of his inside character. He thought they would be thrilled by the honor to become his wives, to one day become the Queens of the Doom Empire. He’d never understand that to a princess as good and pure hearted as Romelle and Allura, that title would carry nothing but shame to it.

Those who were peace loving never liked nor wanted to do anything with the Doom Empire. I was sure Romelle was regretting her family’s involvement with Doom, wishing they had tried for peace rather than conquest. Maybe then her father and brother would still be alive, and Pollux wouldn’t be so badly scarred from the attacks of the Drule armada.

She wouldn’t even know the extent of the damage done, Lotor keeping her isolated and oblivious of all information regarding Pollux. I was here to change all that, going against my prince’s orders to satisfy Romelle’s needs for information. I was nervous though, almost scared to face her. I knew she would look at me with those beautiful blues eyes, eyes that would be haunted by the many betrayals she had suffered through.

Just the thought of Romelle looking at me in that way, was almost enough to get me to turn back. I tightened my grip on the tray, steeling my nerves as I continued to walk down the staircase that led into the area where the holding cells were kept. There was one lonely soldier standing before the door that separated the cells from the rest of the ship. He looked surprised to see me, his gaze casting downwards to note the tray I carried with me.

“Commander Sabbath…what…what brings you here?” He asked me, almost forgetting to salute me.

“I’m here to see the prisoner.” I said quietly.

“You mean the princess….?” I nodded, and the soldier frowned. “Lotor has said she is not to have any visitors. Not until she calms down.”

“She will be calm for me.” I feigned confidence, thinking Romelle could react in a numerous amount of ways to the sight of me. The soldier didn’t look any more confidant than I felt, hesitating.

“She’s just finally settled down somewhat.” The soldier confided. “The screams don’t come so often.”

I was unsettled to hear that, wondering how hysterical Romelle had gotten when they shoved her into a cell. “Open the door soldier.”

“I…I really don’t think this is a good idea.” He told me. But he was digging out the key card out of his pocket. “She is difficult to manage…”

“What is the worse she could do?” I inquired with a bland smile. “She is behind bars, trapped on a Doom ship, with hundreds of Drule soldiers between here and her freedom.”

When put that way, it seemed silly to take seriously any warnings. The soldier sighed, his manner radiating disapproval as he unlocked the sliding door. I walked past him, and he moved to follow me. “I will speak with her alone.”

Again a hesitation, the soldier frowning. “His highness won’t like this…”

“His highness knows to trust me.” I retorted, and pushed the soldier back out the door. A grumble was heard, the soldier reluctantly acquiescing to my demand. The door slid shut behind me, leaving me to the privacy of the holding cells. There was six in all, and five of them were empty. Romelle was currently the only prisoner onboard the ship.

She was also in the cell furthest from the door, Romelle not bothering to look up at the sound of my approaching footsteps. I found her sitting on the floor, body hunched over. Her hair fell forward, obscuring my view of her face. Her dress was still bloody on the front of her skirts, but it had dried to that flaky stage. There was fresher blood on the floor near the bars, and I felt alarmed to see it. I would discover she had been beating her fists on the bars, to the point her knuckles bruised, her hands starting to grow bloody from the continual abuse.

It immediately made me open the cell’s door, I was setting the tray down on the cot that hung suspended off the floor. The food could wait, I wanted to check on Romelle’s injuries. “Romelle.” I whispered her name, my voice so soft and hoarse. I was trying to coax her to look at me, even as I reached for one of her wrists. I had no first aid kit on me, and yet I wanted to at least assess the damage she had done.

My touch was what triggered the attack, Romelle screaming, her own voice weakened from her earlier shouts. Hoarse sounding, and looking wild, she reared up, trying to slap her hands across my face. I endured those blows, they weren’t enough to shock me, and I grappled with her, trying to hold onto her wrists. She struggled, and uncoiled from her crouch, trying to knee me between my legs.

“Romelle, stop this at once!” I barked at her. It took no effort at all for me to overpower her, pinning her on her back beneath me. She looked up at me, startled, and then recognition hit her.

“Sabbath!”

I nodded at her, but didn’t relax my hold on her wrists. Instead I raised her hands up towards my face, trying not to hiss at how bloody the back of them was. “Look at you…” I tsked. “Those bars are steel, there was no way you would have been able to break them down. You’ve only succeeded in hurting yourself…”

Romelle didn’t look like she cared. She tried to jerk her hands free of me, but I held on. “Sabbath…how could you?” She asked me, and I tried not to stiffen. “How could you betray me like that?” I said nothing, slowly letting go of her, cautious as I backed off of her. “Was the witch speaking true? Was our friendship nothing but a lie?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that. I didn’t think the friendship we had been developing had been nothing but a deception. I liked, even respected the girl. But I was also loyal to my people, to the point I had kept quiet to Romelle about Lotor and Zarkon’s plans for her people. Maybe the perceived friendship was both lie and truth, something that existed in the shadows between them.

“It’s…it’s difficult to categorize.” I said at last. “But yes….I would say our friendship was real.”

“Was?” A questioning look from her, Romelle searching my face for something. Maybe she was looking for comfort, or the understanding of just what had gone down between Pollux and Doom.

“I don’t expect you to want to continue to be friends with me.” I finally said, and turned away. I was trusting her to stay put, to not attack my back as I moved to fetch the water I had brought with me. I gathered a few napkins as well, then returned to her side, kneeling besides Romelle “Not after all that’s happened…”

She thought about that. I began to dab the water onto the napkins, setting out to wash the blood off her hands. I was gentle, and still she hissed in pain, trying to draw back from me. My hand immediately fastened around her wrist, holding her steady as I cleaned her wounds.

“Is it true what Lotor said?” She growled out the prince’s name, hate in her eyes. “About my father planning to betray the alliance?”

“I’m afraid it’s true…” I sighed then, keeping my gaze adhered to her hands. What little I had seen of her eyes, had shown how hurt she felt. It was the kind of hurt that had nothing to do with her hands’ injury, and everything to do with what I, what Doom had done to her.

“How…how could you know that?!” Romelle demanded. “Did Lotor have any proof, or was this all just some stupid hunch of his?!”

“It was more than a hunch.” I answered. Her right hand was almost clean, though I was betting her skin would need some cream to fight off infection. “We had a spy present in the castle…he saw everything…” I wasn’t about to try and explain that spy had been a cat, it’s eyes magically attuned to Haggar’s crystal ball.

“He could have been mistaken…” Romelle protested, but it was feeble. She didn’t seem to have the heart to try and sound convincing, sagging in place as I took hold of her left hand. “He must have…must have misunderstood. People can make mistakes…they do so all the time…”

“Not this time.” I told her. “We saw the footage of your father plotting with his advisors. Of him gloating over his plans to kill Zarkon, and take over the universe. He lusted for power Romelle, he wanted more than just Arus under his control.”

“N…No…you are mistaken.”

“I saw it with my own eyes! Heard him with my own ears!” I told her, and made the mistake of looking at her. She was gazing at me horrified, shaking her head no repeatedly.

“The footage could have been altered…it could have been a trick Lotor and Haggar showed you…”

“Why would they bother?” My question stumped her, Romelle glancing down at her lap. She had no easy answer for that, just enduring as I tended to her left hand. “What purpose would it serve? They would not need to convince me of Cova’s deception…I am just a soldier in the Empire, sworn to do my King’s bidding.”

She continued to say nothing, and soon her hand was clean. I dropped it, and proceeded to tear off strips off my uniform’s shirt. She seemed to flinch at the sound, but did not try to back away from me. It was when I began to wind the strips around her hands, that she broke the silence. “You’re very loyal to the Empire, aren’t you?” It was my turn to be silent, already I was twisted up inside by that loyalty. “It’s not a good thing though! Not if it has you follow orders blindly! Sabbath, don’t you see? What they had your people do, it’s wrong?!”

“Don’t you think I know that?!” My voice was harsh then. “What else could I do?” I finished binding her hands with the fabric, knowing they would have to suffice as bandages for now.

“You could…could refuse to do their bidding.” She said at last, in a small voice.

“Those that don’t comply to Doom’s orders, end up on a fast track to nowhere.” I retorted. “I’d be lucky if all they did was kill me…”

“But you’d have your integrity…your honor!” She pointed out, and I pulled away from her. The sad thing was until Romelle and Pollux, I had never questioned my integrity. I had always thought I was honorable for a Drule, doing the right things for my people. Now I wasn’t so sure, and I hated the doubts that filled me. “Sabbath…”

“You should eat.” I had walked over to the cot, lifting up the tray. The food was still warm, a pleasant smell filling the holding cell. “You’ll need your strength for what is coming.”

“What is coming?” She immediately asked, and I hesitated as I placed the tray before her. Romelle picked it up, doing a curious examination of the food I had brought to
her. “Sabbath? What do you know. Tell me…!”

“The prince.” I finally said, sighing. “He intends to marry you.”

“No!” Romelle nearly dropped the tray, staring up at me aghast. “I will not marry that monster!”

“You won’t have a choice in this!” It was the truth, but it made it no less unpleasant.

“He killed my father!” Romelle practically growled. “He betrayed my people…there is no way I would ever deign to be his bride! I’d…I’d sooner die!”

I could see that she meant it too, Romelle’s eyes blazing with promise of that threat. “You have to live.” I told her, and it was then that she flung the tray at me. I tried to dodge it, but some of the food hit me anyway. The hot remains slid down my chest, just short of burning me.

“There is nothing left for me to live for!” She retorted, giving a toss of her head. Her eyes flashed, she looked regal even in her despair. “So take your food, and your false kindness, and be gone from my sight!”

“It’s not false! And you’re wrong!” I snapped at her, my own eyes surely blazing with determined emotion. “You have plenty to live for!”

She let out a bitter laugh, nearly choking on the sound. “What then? My family is dead, my planet is in shambles…there’s no one left to care what happens to me..”

“I care.” I told her, then let out an angry breath. “And not just me. Bandor does as well.”

“Bandor?!” Pain brightened her eyes. “Bandor is dead. I saw him shot down.”

So had I, but I had also born witness to Bandor’s miraculous recovery. Even now I could picture how angry he was, how hard he tried to be brave, and not give in to tears over the loss of his family. “You’re wrong. He survived.” Hope refused to blossom on her face, Romelle shaking her head. “He contacted Lotor just hours ago. He appeared to not even have a scratch on him. Your brother is strong, and angry. He wants you back…”

I saw the fear then, Romelle worried her brother would do something foolish. “Don’t worry…Lotor tried to manipulate him, but Bandor isn’t having any of that.” I paused, trying to figure out how much I should tell her about that discussion. “Your brother, he wants you to know he loves you.”

“He’s not going to come for me, is he?” Romelle asked. I was taken aback by that question.

“Not yet perhaps…” I allowed. “He certainly wasn’t going to fall for Lotor’s tricks. He said you would understand, mentioned the lesson you had both learned from Avok.”

“The good of one person can’t outweigh the needs of many.” Romelle automatically replied, looking sad. “What did Lotor want him to do?”

“He wanted Bandor to lure the Voltron Force into a position where the princess could be captured, and the others killed. Lotor wouldn’t have given you up though. He would have just found more ways to black mail Bandor into doing his bidding.”

“My brother is wise not to fall into Lotor’s trap.” Romelle said.

“Yes, he is.” I agreed. “Wiser than his years would lead any of us to believe…”

She look down for a moment, then up again. “He really lives? You’re not just making that up to give me false hope? To encourage me to continue living?”

“I wouldn’t lie to you about this. I…I may have omitted some things in the past, but I never tried to purposefully lie to you. I…I am sorry for all that has happened…”

A change came over Romelle, she was suddenly drawing to her feet. I stood as well, watching her glare at me. “What good is your sorry?!” She demanded. Her hands clenched into fists, she was shaking with fury. “What does sorry get me now?!”

I had no answer for her. She was right. All my apologies could not change the past. They might not even be able to change her future. My apologies were all but meaningless as long as I wasn’t prepared to act, to do the right things for Romelle.

I looked at her, sad and frustrated in the moment, the food splattered on my shirt. My act of kindness had been rebuffed. She didn’t want my sympathy, didn’t want my help. She was content to wallow in her misery and anger, and it may have been her right to do just that. I said a sad saying of her name, and turned to leave. I never expected her to call out to me, her voice sounding desperate.

“Sabbath, wait!”

I paused, but did not turn to look at her. Not until her hand hesitantly found it’s way to my back. “Yes?” It hurt to look at her, even more than it had earlier. She was struggling with something, seeming to debate it in her head.

“If you really mean it…if you’re really my friend…then you’ll help me…”

“Help you how?” I had a good idea what she would ask, noting she wasn’t above trying to manipulate me to get what she want.

“Help me to escape.” Romelle said. “Please…I won’t blame you for what happened, if you just get me home…” I didn’t speak, just began shaking my head no. Her eyes welled up with tears that threatened to fall at any minute. “Please Sabbath…you have to get me out of here…you have to save me from Lotor!”

“I…I cannot…he is my prince, my Lord…” I should have done as she asked, should have taken any risks to get her to freedom. She began to openly cry, weeping softly as I stepped towards her. Romelle didn’t fight me as I touched her face, using my fingers to brush away her tears. It didn’t stop them, more continued to fall, tugging at my heart and leaving me with a helpless feeling. Why did I have to be so drawn to this girl, why did Romelle have such power over me to get me to doubt everything I thought I knew? My loyalty to the empire, to Lotor and Zarkon was rapidly falling apart, Romelle digging her nails into the cracks that appeared. It would take much prying to get my loyalty to shatter completely, and for now all I could think was I was making a huge mistake through my inaction.


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