Songbird 38

I would like to say I turned my back on Doom without ever looking back. But things weren’t as clear cut as that. There were reminders of what I had left, the things I lost making my life harder. I had lost much of my power and the respect I had once commanded from others. My standing in the community was at an all time low. Even if I hadn’t been willing to move, I would have been driven out of my neighborhood. And all because there was simply too many loyal soldiers who lived in that sector of Kesodonia. Soldiers who were prepared to make my life miserable.

Those days before I moved, I found myself openly attacked while walking out on the streets. I didn’t always manage to come away unharmed, the cowards ganging up on me. I gave as good as I got, but the message I received was clear. They didn’t want me for a neighbor, weren’t content to let me live in peace. My home would be broken into, things stolen. What couldn’t be carried off was destroyed, hateful messages being spray painted onto the walls. They called me traitor, they called me scum.

I wouldn’t tolerate such treatment for long. I’d move as soon as it was feasible, but it was no Drule utopia I’d end up in. Druruga, was more village than city. It reminded me much of the slum city I grew up in, although Druruga wasn’t anywhere as down on it’s luck as Canias was. I’d settle on the outskirts of the village, in a one floor cottage that was small but clean. At least on the inside.

The people of Druruga Village kept to themselves for the most part. But there was still some who targeted me, spraying hateful messages on the outside of my home. I wouldn’t bother to wash them away, or else I’d be at that task for the rest of my life. The vandalization would continue, windows being broken, rocks with messages being thrown inside. I had my suspicions that someone was encouraging these people to make trouble for me.

You might wonder why I remained on planet Doom. But my options were limited. The Doom Empire’s influence was wide spread through out the Denubian Galaxy, many worlds having fallen to it’s might. Those that remained free were in danger of falling at any moment, but there was another factor to consider. Those free worlds, they hated and feared the Drules. They wouldn’t have welcomed me with open arms. I would have been greeted with suspicion and violence, perhaps even driven off the land by the mistrustful people.

I wouldn’t blame them for such a response to my presence. How many times had they opened their homes to a Drule? How many times had those Drules been sent as an advance party to an invasion, or as spies? But more than that, why should I expect them to accept me when I had once been a ruthless commander of Doom’s armies? I had led many a Drule to victory against the other worlders. I was a war criminal who had turned his back on my own people. I belonged nowhere now, and yet was desperate to at least make amends for my military career.

It wasn’t easy to know what to do next. I needed to secure a life for myself, before I set about trying to help others. But it was no easy thing to do. I was black listed at many places, people refusing to hire me. Even for jobs that were beneath me, it was difficult to gain employment. I’d ration out the money I had in my account. What had once been a small fortune would dwindle down to almost nothing.

Eventually however, I found someone willing to hire me. She kept me from ending up in the gutters, kept me from going full circle back to my beginnings. Lady Sarada, who owned the largest of the extermination companies on planet Doom. She wasn’t born into Drule nobility, but she had bought her title on the money her business had earned her.

It was no simple pest control she supplied. The quarry we exterminated was far larger, and infinitely more dangerous. You could lose your life hunting these creatures, and yet people flocked to Lady Sarada. Both for the high paychecks, and the security her business offered the cities and villages of Doom. For you see, there are monsters that roam the lands. Creatures both natural born, and fiends engineered by Haggar’s own hand.

These monsters posed a threat to both safe traveling, and to the cities’ security. The monsters were known for attacking travelers, preying on them as food. The exterminators hired by Lady Sarada would travel out into the wilds, patrolling the land between cities. We’d hunt down any threats, kill them before they could kill us. It was good work for a former soldier, my training coming in handy to keep me alive.

I’d settle into a routine, being away from my home in Druruga quite often. Many nights were spent outside the cities, sleeping inside a tent. I’d work alone, so traps were essential, alarms also rigged to alert me should a predator wander into my camp’s perimeter.

I was gone so often, no one in Druruga questioned my whereabouts. They simply accepted I was busy with work. It wasn’t always true. I would be busy, but not with what they assumed. I was begginning my life as a rebel, actively acting out against Doom. It manifested in small attempts at sabotage, I would sneak into the work sites of the slaves. There I would damage the equipment the Drule overseers used, ruining plans, even planting explosives on their ships.

It was a minor inconvenience at best. I was mere annoyance, but I was building up for something bigger. I was stealing parts, the things needed to make future explosives. I had dreams of making a bomb big enough to blow up castle Doom, and Lotor with it. Sometimes I spied on soldier’s conversation, trying to glean information I could use to foil the Empire’s plots.

My work as a traveling exterminator allowed me to pull double duty as a saboteur. Often the patrols would lead me near to sites of interest. But the castle still eluded me, no amount of scheming could get me close enough without being shot on sight. Sometimes I would explore the underground caverns, the ones that had been discovered beneath the pit of skulls. I was hoping to find a tunnel that would take me directly beneath the castle, to a prime location where I could set the bomb.

And while I was doing all this, the war between Doom and Arus would continue. My civilian status limited me to what the Empire released on the news holos. I had no doubt they carefully edited those reports in order to lead the people of planet Doom into believing the war was going better than it actually was. Doom’s plots continued to be foiled by Voltron, Arus remaining free. But it wasn’t just Arus, other worlds evaded Doom’s greedy grasp. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Voltron Force.

There was no doubt in my mind that the King would be as angry as he was frustrated by the defeats Voltron handed his Empire. I wondered how Lotor and Haggar were keeping their heads intact, remembering how often Zarkon killed others for the failure of his plans. But I heard no word of anyone being slain, least of all Lotor. He continued to lead failed mission after mission, leaving Zarkon to come up with a new plan.

I’d first hear of this new plan as whispers in Druruga. Even as far out as the village was, the gossip came. The people spoke of a great tournament King Zarkon was holding at the coliseum. The best fighters, and strongest of the gladiators were being called out. Pitted against each other in a battle to the death. Whole ships full of aliens kidnaped from other worlds were arriving on Doom. The stolen people forced to become a part of the tournament.

At first I assumed it was a typical arena spectacle, one meant to amuse Zarkon even as Haggar groomed the victor to become her latest robeast. But the fighting would go on for days, a week passing with no end in sight. There was many deaths, only a handful of the most vicious aliens surviving. Those would be cloistered away, whispers being carried on the wind that they were being treated in Haggar’s lair.

I had no doubts something big was being planned. But I didn’t know what. More and more ships would arrive, carrying newly stolen people from distant worlds. They were chosen not to be slaves but to be fighters in the coliseum. It got to the point the rumors insisted the castle could not hold all the aliens slated to become robeasts. That many were being held in fortresses all over planet Doom.

I would become determined to find out what was going on. Not just to satisfy my curiosity, but in order to prevent Zarkon’s latest scheme from getting off the ground. I would use the excuse of my work, a call being put out to hunt an escaped alien from the arena. The alien had been turned into a vicious robeast, one that was preying on anything it could get it hands on. Already several exterminators had been killed, leaving the remainder wary of taking this job.

I would take it, seeing the job as the excuse I needed to get close to the castle. I’d go heavily armed, setting up a base camp in the sector near to the castle where the creature had made it’s most recent kill. Some distance away, I’d pause, whipping out my micro binoculars. I’d use them to scout out the area, earnestly searching for signs of the robeast.

As I looked through them, I could see the castle in the distance. I’d used the zoom feature to get a better view, shifting to the side that would allow me a glimpse inside the coliseum. Sure enough, I could see the aliens battling each other, a survival of the fittest. The arena’s stands were packed with spectators, Drules coming from all over the planet to watch the fights being held.

To the east of the castle was a work site, the slaves toiling there without breaks. If they dared collapsed, they were beaten and whipped, the Drules trying to force them to continue past their exhausted states. It was nothing I hadn’t seen before, nothing I’d be able to stop. The slaves that tried to escape were always shot down, Doom extra determined to prevent a repeat of Romelle’s success. But even with the deaths and the torture, the slaves never stopped trying to get away from their tormentors. They truly preferred death to living out a life of slavery.

I’d put away the micro binoculars, pausing only long enough to check the charges on all my weapons. I had many, and even more left at the camp site. A long sniper rifle was across my back, a hand blaster holstered at my hip. A dagger was in a leg sheathe, and I even had some photon bombs attached to my belt. I had enough to handle most threats, and it was my hope that I spot the robeast long before it saw me.

I’d travel across the plains, being careful not to disturb so much as a rock. I wanted nothing to give away my presence for I hoped to sneak up on the robeast. It was my intent to shoot it from a distance, rather than get up close and personal with it.

At one point I’d come across it’s tracks, feet leaving imprints in the sand. It was sheer luck that the winds hadn’t yet blown apart it’s footprints, and I hurried after the trail of them. They would lead me close to one of the Empire’s fortresses. There’d be claw marks on the stones, and blood splattered on the ground. Not a lot though, leaving me to believe the robeast had injured it’s fingers in trying to claw open the stone wall of the fortress.

I wondered at that. Did the robeast have a purpose to coming here? Perhaps it wasn’t as mindless as the reports said. Other aliens slated to become robeasts, or already transformed were inside this building. Maybe the robeast had wanted to free them too, or maybe it was just spoiling for a fight. Either way, my job was to put it down but the trail had ended at the back of the fortress.

I could hear the howls of the enraged robeasts, they were agitated and longing to be free of their prison. Sometimes I could faintly make out the laughter of the guards. They were teasing the trapped robeasts, further agitating them. It was a stupid thing to do, the soldiers lacking sense and searching for petty amusements. I could do nothing for their stupidity, knowing they might end up dead if they continued to prod the robeasts past acceptable levels of tolerance.

I would be circling around the fortress, when a side door would open. Two Drules would emerge, grumbling under their breaths as they stepped outside. They’d pay me little attention, save for a sidelong glance. They didn’t recognize me, my hair was hidden under a skull cap, my face obscured by shadows. But they saw the identifying marks on my clothing, the emblems letting them know I was one of the exterminators that patrolled this area.

“Gods, I don’t know why we have to be out here.” One complained. He gave a paranoid look around the area, his hand resting on his holstered weapon. “There’s no way anyone will come here…the alliance members can’t get past our planetary shield…”

“True, but I’ve heard rumors….” said his partner. “Things going screwy at the work sites. Stuff being stolen, or broken. Even a few unexplained ship explosions.”

“It’s probably the slaves acting up…..the King will soon put an end to that.” The more frightened of the two was still looking around, as though he expected the escaped robeast to spring out at any moment.

“I hope you’re right. More and more slaves are trying to escape….we’re wasting good ships shooting them down.” There was no regret for the loss of the slave’s lives, they didn’t count for much in the soldier’s eyes.

“It’s all because that one slave managed to escape. That gives them hope that it can happen again.” Grumbled the other. “They don’t realize it was a one time thing…it’s never gonna happen again.”

I pulled out my micro binoculars, all in order to have an excuse to linger here a moment. The soldiers continued to ignore me. “It’s because of men like us that no other slaves will escape from Doom!” They both laughed, though they were nervous. “You think any more of the robeasts will get loose?”

“Who knows…” Was the sighed out answer. “There’s bound to be a few slip ups with the amount Zarkon is stockpiling. You can’t expect to make an army of robeasts, and not have a few problems…”

I stiffened, trying not to look their way. What was this about an army of robeasts?

“I’ll just be glad when we get the okay to transport them off planet. Let them be another world’s problems, the whole lot of them!”

“I wonder how things will be when they become super powered robeasts.” The soldier’s musings had me taking in a sharp breath. I was shocked at the concept of a robeast that was super powered. “I mean….if we’re having this much trouble with regular robeasts, can you imagine how much more difficult it will be to contain those who have been amped up on lazon and nuclear radiation?!”

“I’m sure the Empire will manage somehow….” The other tried to sound reassuring.

“I won’t feel better until after they’ve been transformed, and sent to Arus!” He laughed, but it was a nervous sound. “And I’m doubly glad I haven’t been stationed on that satellite the robeasts are going to be sent to!”

I hadn’t heard nearly enough, but I knew I couldn’t stay here any longer. Not without arousing the soldiers’ suspicion. I put away the micro binoculars, and giving a nod to the soldiers, began to walk away. But I wasn’t leaving with the intent to search out the escaped robeast. No, my intent was to head back to my camp site. I had telaportable com system there, one that would let me get out a message even as far as Arus.

It was my hopes that my warning of what Doom was planning would somehow help the Voltron Force, though I knew I needed to find out even more details than what I already knew. Right now I could only prepare Arus for the fact that an army of robeasts would soon be heading their way. It might not do them any good, but it was all I had. At least as long as I didn’t know of the location of the satellite the soldiers had mentioned.

But it was my intent to find out. I knew I had little hope of breaking into one of the fortresses. But one of the work sites of the slaves would prove easier. I could hack into a computer located at the site, gaining access to the classified documents of the military. And with that access, it was my hope I would find out about the satellite, and just what the process entailed that would turn the aliens into super robeasts.

I was hurrying, but was no less careful. I crossed the sandy plain, noting the winds had already blown away the robeast’s footprints. I kept my senses tuned for any noise, any sighting of the robeast. I could not afford to be killed by it, not when I had such an important message to send to Arus. When the scream came, I nearly leapt out of my skin, so startled by the unexpected noise.

There were several reasons possible as to why a scream was being voiced. This area I was in was close to a site where slaves were kept. They could be being tortured by their Drule masters, or even being preyed on by the very robeast I was sent to hunt. Or it could be a traveler, whose hover car had somehow been incapacitated. It could have even been a patrol of Drule soldiers who had run into the robeast, but I doubted that one. And all because the scream had been noticeably female, loud and full of fear.

I was already running in the direction I thought the scream had come from. I was pulling the rifle off my back, cocking back it’s trigger, the charge set to kill. The scream sounded again, close this time. I began running even faster, thinking I had recognized the voice behind it. When the scream came a third time, I was certain it was her. I’d never forget the sound of her screams, the panic and revulsion she had voiced that night. A panic and revulsion she was voicing now.

There was rocky outcroppings spread out over the land. Perfect to hide behind. The screams were coming from one such outcropping, along with male voices who laughed and jeered. I didn’t need to hear what they were saying to guess at their intent. They had found the perfect prey for their lusts.

I didn’t stop, though I did slow down. From the voices I could tell there was at least three men with the screaming woman. No doubt they were Drule, and though I am a strong, skilled fighter, I would find a match if these men were soldiers of the Empire.

It made me seethe, a slow burn working it’s way through me as I crept towards the rocks. They were taller than me, forcing me to scramble for purchase up the rock. As I did this, I listened to the voices, fighting back a growl.

“Get her legs open!” One was saying, even as I heard the rustle of clothing.

“Be careful, she’s a fighter!” Another warned.

“I don’t know which slave pit you came from, but we’ll make you regret trying to escape!” laughed the third.

“Get your hands off of me, you filthy pigs!” The woman screamed. The sound of a slap was heard, a Drule growling as he struck the woman.

“Stupid bitch, you should be honored to be fucked by us!”

“There is no honor in what you attempt to do!” She snapped back, then screamed even louder.

“Shit, someone gag her mouth!” Came the order. “She’ll have every predator in a ten mile radius on us if she keeps up with that racket!”

They didn’t realize a predator was already upon them. I had pulled myself to the top of the rocks, balancing on a narrow ledge as I sighted down the scope of my sniper rifle. I could see everything, the soldier holding up the woman, her arms twisted behind her back. The already too short skirt of her pink dress being hiked up high enough on her that her panties were visible. Another solider stood before her, trying to dodge the woman’s kicking legs. The third soldier had his pants open, half erect cock showing as he moved towards her head. I had no doubt what he intended to use to silence her screams, but he’d never get a chance to shove his dick into her mouth.

The soldiers screamed in shock and alarm as their comrade toppled over backwards. A large hole was where his face had been, blood bubbling out of the smoking remains. The one holding the woman didn’t drop her, looking around with a dull look of disbelief on his face. The one who had been fighting her legs was already whipping out his hand blaster. A kick from the woman knocked the blaster out of his hand at the exact instant my shot exploded his face into bits.

The woman couldn’t help herself, she screamed at the horrific way her would be rapist died. Her remaining torturer still hadn’t set her down, holding her like a shield before him. I would leap off the ledge, my feet hitting the ground with a jarring impact that he heard.

“Show yourself, you coward!”

“It is not I who is the coward!” I retorted, and stepped past the rocky outcropping. The soldier looked at me, jaw dropping as he saw the insignias on my clothing. “Look at you.” I sneered. “Hiding behind the very woman you hoped to rape…!” I narrowed my gaze at him, eyes glinting with menace.

“It’s kept me alive this long, hasn’t it?” He demanded, still holding onto the girl. “Now drop your weapon if you don’t want something worse to happen to this pretty morsel.” I stared at him, still sneering. He tensed, and growled at me. “Do it!”

Grumbling under my breath, I dropped the rifle on the ground, even as the woman gasped. “Don’t!”

“Shut up!” He snapped at her, shaking her. “Now the blaster and the bombs….carefully now…don’t want those going off…” I slowly did as he asked, setting everything down carefully. He watched me all the while, unable to relax. “Those were good friends of mine you killed. I’m gonna make you pay for that. I’m gonna…” It was then that the woman he held slammed her head backwards into his face. He howled in surprise, his grip loosening when she kicked back her legs.

The instant she had pulled free, the Drule trying to reach after her, I pulled out my dagger. It was flying before I had registered my movement, whistling through the air. It’s journey would end, embedded between the Drule’s eyes. He’d go cross-eyed, as if trying to look at the weapon sticking in him. And then he was falling over backwards, as dead as his friends were.

There was a long pause after the last of his death rattles. The woman had turned to look at the dead soldier, seeming to shudder at the sight of him. I wasn’t looking at any of the dead, studying the woman instead. She looked better than I had last seen her, her skin no longer so pale. Her long hair was bound back with multiple braids, but some of them were coming undone all due to her recent struggles.

She turned, and there was no mistaking that shade of blue that colored her eyes. I was stunned to see her, much of my adrenaline and anger fading to the background as I stared at her. She blinked several times at me, and I realized she was fighting back tears. I whispered, her name seeming to echo softly around us.

“Romelle?”

She nodded once, and then her face crumpled. With tears streaking down her cheeks, she ran to me. I did the only thing I could in the moment. I opened my arms to welcome her into my embrace. Questions would come, new worries forming. But for now, there was only this moment.


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