I can’t begin to voice how good it felt to hold Romelle in my arms once more. To feel the soft yield of her body, the princess letting down her guard as she relaxed against me. I tightened my arms around her, feeling as though I might never let her go. My chin rested on top of her hair, that shining crown of blonde clean and soft. It smelled faintly of whatever shampoo she had used, but she hadn’t doused herself in her preferred perfumes. They would have been too strong a scent, would have given away her presence to any Drule who passed too near to her.
Her own arms were wound about me, fingers clinging to the back of my vest. She was trembling, her voice muffled against my chest. She wasn’t trying to speak, her voice taken by tears. I could guess at her upset, Romelle overcome after her rescue from a near rape. If I examined deeper, she might even be remembering the time Lotor had forced himself on her. The trauma of this event being replaced with the memories of another, more horrific time.
I stayed holding her, one hand playing my fingers in the loose hair that trailed down her back. It was foolish of me. I should have let her go to reclaim my weapons. Should have waited until I moved us to a secure location before playing at comforting her. But I was overcome with emotions, happy to see her and yet not. Happy because I had thought I would never have the privilege of seeing Romelle again. Never mind that now I was holding and touching her.
But a worry was ruining any joy I was experiencing, a frown crossing my face as I continued to pet her hair. Why was she here on Doom? Alone and defenseless. Why was she not on her planet, where she would be surrounded by people willing to protect her? Why would she ever risk coming back here? What could possibly motivate her? I didn’t think she had come back for me, never that. I should have been easily forgotten, just one more facet of a nightmare that had finally ended for her.
She was still crying when I eased her back. But the tears were silent now, just watery streaks down her cheeks. Romelle looked confused that I had stepped back from her, my hands still gripping her arms as I looked her over. I had so many questions, but the first thing that blurted out of my mind was this.
“Just what are you wearing!?”
She instantly flushed at my disapproval. Romelle was wearing a dress unlike anything I had ever seen her wear before, the pink skirt super short. I realized it was still hiked up, revealing the lace of her panties. My own face grew hot, though I couldn’t blush. I quickly reached for the skirt, pulling it down to give her a semblance of respectability.
“It’s something that’s easy to move around in.” Romelle defended her choice in clothing. I shook my head, still frowning as I let my eyes linger at the cleavage revealed of the v cut of her top. She even had a short white cape attached to the shoulders of her top, it’s ends falling even with the short length of her skirt. It seemed highly inappropriate to me, the outfit bold and daring.
And then there was the color, the bight hues of pink and clean white standing out in stark contrast to the muddied browns and dismal grays of Doom’s landscape. She stuck out like a sore thumb, it was no wonder she had been found by those three Drules I had killed.
“It’s good to see you again Sabbath.” Romelle began, clearly trying to distract me from her attire. “I…”
“What are you doing here?!” I interrupted her. “Why would you ever come back to Doom?! Are you alone here? Where are your guards?! Why have you no weapons?! What are you thinking…?” Question after question poured out of me, my worry and stern disapproval competing for dominance. “If Prince Lotor learns you are here…”
“He won’t know…” She quickly assured me. “You’re the only Drule who knows I am here….”
“Only because I killed these three fools!” I reminded her. Her head started to turn, as though she would look at the bodies. I didn’t want her looking at such gruesome sights, quickly taking hold of her face. Cradling it between my hands, I forced her to stay looking at me. “Romelle….why….why come back?”
“I made a promise.” She said at last. My brow lifted, wondering what kind of promise she could mean. “I made a promise that one day I would come back to Doom and free all the slaves.”
I wasn’t sure how to react to that. It would be rude to laugh. But Romelle was serious, thinking she could somehow accomplish what was thought to be impossible. “You should worry about yourself first and foremost.” I finally told her, tone gruff. “You were finally free…of Doom, of Lotor….”
“I will never be free so long as he lives, and the Doom Empire continues to flourish.” She reached up to grab hold of my wrists, but she didn’t try to free herself from my hands’ hold. “If the Empire is not stopped permanently, they will continue to attack worlds, to enslave people. I can’t allow it. I have to play my part, to do anything I can to stop them.”
“That’s very admirable of you…”
“But you don’t want me putting myself in harm’s way, do you?” Romelle asked, and I nodded. “You’re just like him…”
“Him? Your brother…?”
“Him too.” She agreed.
My frown deepened. “And Bandor just let you leave? After all you’ve both been through?!” My opinion of Prince Bandor was dropping to an all time low, but Romelle shook her head no.
“He didn’t know. I left without asking him.”
“Left without asking him?!” My voice went louder with my disbelief. “Does anyone know you are here on Doom?!”
“I left a note.” She looked defensive then, my hands dropping from her face to her arms. I was tempted to shake some sense into her. “I didn’t come here alone…”
“I should hope not!” I all but roared. It was only the knowledge that the robeast I had been sent to hunt could find us, that kept me from shouting completely. “And where are your companions?! Why are they not here?! Why have they left you to be attacked by anyone who comes across you?! Don’t tell me they’ve been killed?!”
“They….I…” She shook her head, having blanched at the thought of their deaths. “Of course not. They’re around….”
“Around where?!” I demanded, and snorted. “They should be keeping a better eye on you!”
“They don’t have time to baby sit! We’re on an important mission!”
“You’re what’s important!” I blurted out. “Don’t they…don’t you realize that?! Romelle, if anything happened to you…I’d….”
“You’d what…?” She asked softly, and I turned my head to the side. I wanted to hide my expression from her, feeling embarrassed by the depth of the feelings I had almost exposed. “Sabbath….please….finish what you were about to say…”
“This is not a good time to be on Doom.” I was still holding her by the arms. “The King is plotting something…”
“Yes, I know.” I turned back to her, my surprise in my eyes. “It’s why I’m here. To find out the details and stop him.”
“Couldn’t they have sent someone else?” I grumbled out loud.
“It doesn’t matter where I am, what planet I am on if Zarkon’s plans are successful” retorted Romelle. “The galaxy won’t be safe if he makes his army of robeasts.”
“So you know that much…” I murmured, then tensed. I thought I had heard something, rock shifting nearby.
“Sabbath?” Romelle had noticed the way I had gone stiff, the girl touching my chest to get my attention. “What’s wrong…?”
“Shhh….” I hissed, and making sure she remained behind me, I turned. My weapons still lay scattered on the ground. I was cursing then that I hadn’t retrieved them sooner. “Don’t make a sound…” I advised Romelle, drawing her along with me as I inched towards one of the photon bombs nearest to us. One arm was reaching for the bomb, the other extended behind me to keep a grip on Romelle. I’d drag her down with me to our knees, my eyes still scouting the area around us. It was then that I saw the gleam of what had to be a red laser discharging.
Without voice, I dove to the side. I took Romelle with me, arms going around her protectively. The laser would hit just where we had been kneeling, coming dangerously close to activating the bomb. Romelle was on top of me, trembling and wide eyed with shock. But she didn’t speak, didn’t so much as scream. She was trusting me to protect her, and I could only hope I was up to the task.
Rolling to the side, I somehow managed to get us upright without being shot. Romelle stayed clinging to my chest even as I tried to position her behind me. It was the fact that she stayed in front of me that saved me, a voice calling out.
“Damn you, you filthy Drule bastard. Let go of the woman!” The insult let me know I wasn’t dealing with a Drule, as did the heavily accented voice. I couldn’t place the accent, the words almost mangled as the man spoke in Basic.
“Who are you?!” I growled, looking to the left and right for any sign of this attacker. “Show yourself!” It was eerily reminiscent of the words Romelle’s attackers had spoken, only now the situation had reversed itself on me. “Come out!”
“Sven!” Romelle’s cry took me by surprise, almost distracting me from my survey of the area. “It’s all right. I’m unharmed….”
“Damn it, Romelle, be silent for once!” Came the reply. She took offense to that, an angry huff escaping her.
“If you’d stop giving orders for just one instant, you’d know this man is no threat to me..!”
“This man is a Drule! They are all threats!” The mysterious Sven shouted, sounding highly agitated.
“Not Sabbath.” Romelle insisted. I heard a sharp breath, the man reacting to the name. “You remember Sabbath, don’t you?”
I was confused. I knew I would remember an accent like the one this man had. And yet Romelle was acting like this Sven should know me. “Romelle?”
“It’s all right Sabbath…” She whispered to me. I wasn’t reassured, tense and trying to be subtle as I looked towards my rifle.
“Sabbath, you say…” At Romelle’s nod, foot steps sounded. Someone was coming from around the rocks. I would get my first glimpse of Sven, a tall human with ink black hair. His eyes were angry, his lips twisted into a scowl as he inched towards us. All the while he kept his blaster trained on us, his eyes studying my face. “So….this is him…this is Sabbath?”
“Put down the weapon Sven.” ordered Romelle. “You won’t need it around Sabbath.”
“I will be the judge of that.” Sven retorted. He was giving me the evil eye, and I can’t say I wasn’t giving him a similar expression. “What are you doing out here Lieutenant?”
Without reacting, I spoke. “Lieutenant no more. I’m no longer part of the military.”
“Sabbath, what happened?!” Romelle asked.
“They gave me a choice, Romelle. Submit to their brainwashing in order to become a good soldier, or leave without any honor left to me. My choice was clear…I chose the latter…”
“Did you now?” Sven sounded mocking, as though he didn’t believe me. “Why would a Drule do such a thing? Why turn your back on your career, on the power you once commanded?!”
“There was no honor in that route, regardless of what the other Drules believe….besides…I only stayed a part of the military as long as I did in order to be able to remain close to Romelle.” Sven’s mouth was an unhappy line. “I had to stay as long as I believed I could make some difference for her….small though it might have been.” I added, noting Romelle looked teary eyed to hear that.
“And who are you?” I asked, Romelle still held in my arms. I wasn’t ready to let go of her, and she wasn’t trying to move. “A soldier from Pollux?” I flashed my own unhappy expression then. “You’re not doing a good job if you let your princess run about like this…she was nearly prey to these men…”
His gaze flickered briefly to one of the dead soldiers, expression hardening even further. “I am not from Pollux, though I once was a soldier same as you.”
“Sven used to be part of the Galaxy Alliance’s Garrison.” Explained Romelle. Understanding instantly dawned in me, my arms going slack. This was the soldier, the one who had helped Romelle escape from Doom. The one I had both admired and been sick with jealousy of. This was Romelle’s hero, the man who had saved her. The man who had done what I could not.
“Sabbath?” Romelle was concerned by my lack of response. Her hand reached up, fingers touching my cheek. I tried not to flinch at her touch, not wanting to worry her further.
“You have my thanks.” I said at last. My voice was hoarse as I extended a hand towards Sven. He stared at it in suspicion. “You got her free of this place…” He didn’t take my hand. My own gaze hardened, realizing this man didn’t like nor trust me. I couldn’t say I had any like for him either, and it showed in what I said next. “What were you thinking?! Bringing her back here?!”
“You think it’s easy to keep her from doing something once she makes up her mind?!” Sven demanded with a scowl.
“If I was you, I would have found a way to keep her from returning to Doom!” I shot back with my own scowl. Romelle was looking back and forth between us, and our words made her angry. Angry enough to step away from me.
“I can and will make my own choices regarding what I can and cannot do!” She retorted, hands on her hips. “Sven wouldn’t have been able to stop me….and neither would you have, Sabbath!”
Both of us looked at each other, and then our expressions turned sheepish. “She’s very headstrong for a princess.” Sven muttered at last.
“You haven’t been around very many princesses, have you?” I asked, thinking of Princess Allura’s own rumored brand of headstrong.
“Just one other…” Sven said, and Romelle supplied the answer to the question that comment brought me.
“Sven was the original pilot of blue lion.” She explained.
“Original pilot? I hadn’t been aware there was more than one…”
“That damn witch!” Sven spat. “She got me good. I wasn’t able to fight anymore….sent to recover in a hospital on another planet…”
I could guess what had happened next for Sven to have ended up on planet Doom. “I’m…sorry that happened to you Sven.” But I couldn’t force myself to say anymore, couldn’t bring myself to say I was happy he had been here to rescue Romelle. And all because I had wanted to be the one to save her.
“What good is a Drule’s sorry?” Sven demanded. “It won’t change the past…it won’t change what has been done to me…to Romelle!”
“The past can’t be changed…” agreed Romelle. “But we can work on making a better future…”
“The future won’t be better until all the Drule are dead!” Sven announced, his blaster being aimed at me. He looked very much like he wanted to start the extermination with me. I tensed, but before anything could happen between us, Romelle stepped in front of me. She held her arms out to the sides, blocking Sven’s shot.
“Sven, no! You will not be killing Sabbath. He’s a friend…”
“No Drule will be a friend of mine!” Sven swore.
“You don’t have to be his friend.” Romelle snapped. “But you’re not going to kill him!”
“Romelle, think! His very presence endangers our mission. If we let him go…he could alert the castle to our presence here on Doom! It’s a risk we can’t take!”
“Sabbath won’t betray us…he’d never let me fall into Lotor’s hands once more!” Romelle insisted.
“Why? Why would he?! Because of some one sided friendship you imagined?” Sven demanded.
“I am Romelle’s friend.” I spoke quietly, but they seemed to ignore me.
“Sabbath has quit the military. He no longer does their dirty work….” Romelle was cut off by a laugh from Sven.
“He could be just telling you what you want to hear. It’d be best to kill him, and kill him now…”
I placed my hands on Romelle’s shoulders, startling her. “I don’t know how to convince you Sven of my sincerity where the military is concerned. I no longer want to be part of Doom’s evil…If you would give me a chance…I would help you with your mission.”
“Hmph. Like I would believe a Drule.” Sven grumbled.
“I believe him.” Romelle spoke up. “Just as I believe in you Sven. We’ve all become…damaged because of our experiences on Doom. That includes Sabbath. And just like us, he is trying to become better, to do the right thing. Let him try…”
“This is a mistake…” But Sven was lowering his weapon.
“Is it any bigger a mistake than coming to Doom?” wondered Romelle.
“I think the real mistake was letting you leave the base….” Sven grimaced. “It’s too dangerous for a woman to be out here alone…”
“In more ways than you know.” I said, agreeing with him. “There’s an escaped robeast wandering the area. It’s already killed several hunters…” I glanced at the bodies on the ground. “We can’t afford the risk of them being found. Nor can we count on the beast stumbling upon them and devouring the remains. We’ll have to dispose of the bodies and fast…”
“We’ll burn them.” Decided Sven. I nodded. It was as good an idea as any.
“Sabbath…” Romelle was collecting my weapons, intent on giving them back to me. “What do you know of Zarkon’s latest plan?”
“Not as much as I’d like.” I admitted with a grimace. “It’s true what you heard. Zarkon is trying to make an army of robeasts. Even now, they fight in the arena, the
strongest being chosen for augmentation. But it won’t be no ordinary robeasts the galaxy will face. They have found a way to make a kind of super powered robeast!”
“Super powered robeast?” Romelle gasped, horrified.
“I don’t know what that entails…” I admitted, watching as Sven began working on setting a fire. “There are fortresses all over Doom that are being used to house the robeasts.”
“So we should start there…” Sven said, and I shook my head no.
“We’d never get inside….even if that was where the transformation was taking place.”
“What do you know?” Sven asked, and I shrugged.
“I overheard some guards say something about some satellite. They didn’t mention a name. But apparently the robeasts will be taken there to undergo treatment.”
“Oh, and you just happened to overhear this?” He demanded.
“Sven, don’t be so suspicious of Sabbath!” Romelle snapped. “He’s on our side.”
“That remains to be seen.” Sven grumbled, sparks at last taking hold. Together we would work to drag over the bodies to the fire, pausing only long enough to take anything of use off of them.
“What about you?” I grunted, as we dropped the last of the bodies into the bonfire. “How did you even know Zarkon was planning something?”
“Zarkon is always planning something.” Sven stated. “It was just a matter of finding out what the latest plan is…”
“You’re risking a lot….in coming here…”
“Don’t I know it.” Sven said, gazing at Romelle who seemed not to notice. “But if we hadn’t come, we might not have ever learned of Zarkon’s new army. Not in time to do anything about it.”
“I was going to warn Arus.” He gave me a disbelieving look. “I was!” I insisted. “I was heading to my camp site, when I heard Romelle’s screams…”
“It doesn’t matter what you were or weren’t gonna do.” He decided. “Come…we can’t stay here any longer…someone may see the smoke and come to investigate….”
“Is your base nearby?” I asked.
“It’s not too far a walk.” He grudgingly admitted.
“Then let’s go.” I said.
“What about your camp?” He asked.
I wasn’t worried. “If anyone comes across it, they will assume either I am out hunting, or that the beast I’ve been sent to kill has taken me out. Either way, I don’t matter…”
“You have no friends or family to come looking for you?” Sven wanted to know. Now I looked at Romelle.
“The only true friend I have left on Doom is standing right here.”
Sven made a sound, but was otherwise silent. Id gesture for Romelle to approach us, the girl hurrying over. Together, we would head out towards this base of theirs. I was a mix of emotions, elated to be reunited with Romelle but also worried. Would we be caught? Would we be able to make a difference here on Doom? There was even excitement, for my life as a terrorist against Doom was begginning in earnest now.