It wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences traveling with Sven. He wasn’t exactly hostile to me, nor was he friendly. He seemed content to use me, and then discard me, his sole reason for our association the explosives I had hidden. I could accept that since I wasn’t exactly warming up to him either. I can’t say I hated him, not completely. Not when he had rescued Romelle from planet Doom. But it was that same rescue that made me sick with jealousy, sometimes to the point I couldn’t stand to look at him.
Fortunately for me, much of our travels was spent with me in the lead. Another Drule might have been uneasy to have an armed former Garrison soldier at his back, but not I. And all because I knew he needed what I had to offer. He wouldn’t kill me, not without provocation, and not before he got his hands on the explosives.
We didn’t do much talking, those two days we traveled towards Kesodonia. Sven was always quick to point out my failings in regard to Romelle. It was reminder I neither wanted nor needed. I tried to make him see my side of things, but he remained unsympathetic. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t understand the loyalty I had felt to the Empire. And still I tried to get him to accept another view point, remembering he had first been a Garrison soldier, his loyalties owed solely to the Galaxy Alliance.
“Put yourself in my shoes….” I was saying as we trudged along the muddy pits that made up the final stretch to the abandoned mines.
“I doubt very much my feet would fit.” Sven countered, but neither one of us laughed at his joke.
“Sven…you were a Garrison soldier. What would you have done, if your loyalties had been tied between a captured enemy and the Alliance?”
“If that captive had been Drule, I would have had no problem with my loyalties.” He retorted.
“Even if that Drule was an innocent woman?” I asked.
“There’s no such thing as an innocent Drule.”
I snorted in response, the disgust evident in my tone. “Now you’re just being a bigot.” He made a sound, it could almost be classified as a growl. “It’s true.” I insisted. “No race is entirely evil…just as no race is entirely good. It’s the same for us Drules as it is for you humans.”
“And you Sabbath….do you think yourself a good man?” Sven wanted to know.
“Not particularly.” I answered breezily. “I know I’ve done wrong….that i’ve done terrible and evil things. My hands might never be clean. But we’re not talking about a Drule like me. We’re talking about an innocent female, some high class noble, maybe even a princess who was captured by the Alliance. They assume she can be of use to crush the Doom Empire. And they are prepared to do anything towards that goal….would you stand by and let them?”
Sven was silent for a long time. “The Alliance wouldn’t really hurt an innocent woman.” He said at last.
“How can you be sure?” I demanded. “They’ve been desperate to be rid of the Doom Empire for a long time now. Decades of animosity exist between the two factions. If an end to the war could be managed through the suffering of that innocent, don’t you think your commanders would take the opportunity she offered?” He was troubled by that question. I saw that when I glanced over my shoulder, and saw his brow furrowed in concentration. “How long have you been a soldier?”
“About ten years.” Sven answered. “I joined just when I turned eighteen.”
“So you’re twenty-eight in human years.” I noted. “More than enough time to have seen some things. Good and bad where your Alliance is concerned.”
“We’re in a war Sabbath. Of course things aren’t always so clean cut…on either side. But…I am damn well sure the Alliance had not done anything as bad as the Doom Empire has done!”
“Are you positive?” I asked, watching as he nodded. “You never heard them give the orders to kill innocents? Never seen a Garrison soldier rape a civilian, torture and torment innocents, rob and steal from those they were protecting?” He looked uncomfortable at that. “What is it Sven? What has struck a chord with you?”
“Sometimes…sacrifices have to be made.” He said at last.
“Sacrifices….And that means what exactly?” I asked. His look was evasive. “Sven, what is it? What did they do? What did you see?” I had ground to a halt, refusing to go one step further until he answered me.
“You’re aware the Alliance once had a no Drule left alive policy…” He finally whispered. I nodded, expression guarded to hide how I felt about that. “What you may not know is…Garrison never abandoned it. Unofficially of course. Our commanders strongly believe the best Drule is a dead Drule…most times I’m inclined to agree.”
“Have you ever killed an a Drule civilian?” I wanted to know.
“Not I. But I know people who have.” He looked away. “Some even took pleasure in the act.” He turned defensive then. “They were acting out of grief, out of a need to make the Drules pay for what they did to their friends, their family, their world…”
“Revenge doesn’t make it right.” I retorted. “There are thousands of Drules who have never fought in the war, people who have sat back and…”
“Sat back and enjoyed the rewards reaped in by the Empire’s invasion!” snapped Sven. “Doesn’t that make them just as guilty?”
“Maybe a little..” I was uncertain. “But it doesn’t compare to those who actively went out and killed.”
“They keep slaves…they do nothing to talk out against what their King does….” Sven argued.
“You think Zarkon and Lotor would allow the people of the Empire to actively revolt against them?” I laughed them, bitter amusement in my voice. “They’d kill and make examples of those who tried.”
“But it’s better to have tried than to do nothing at all!” Sven said.
“And did you do nothing to stop those who decided to seek revenge on the Drule innocents?” I demanded. His jaw clenched, but Sven said nothing. “Your silence speaks volumes to me soldier.” With that I turned my back on him, and resumed walking. After a few seconds, I heard the sound of him following.
“I wasn’t content to do nothing.” Sven finally said. “It’s the main reason I tried out for the special task force that was going to be sent to Arus. I couldn’t take the indiscriminate killing….” Now it was my turn to be quiet. “It wouldn’t have stopped the killing, not right away. But the hope was that the legend of Arus’ super weapon was true. And that with that weapon we’d finally be able to stop Doom.”
I thought I knew how the story went, but Sven surprised me with his next confession. “Did you know we were supposed to take the robot from Arus…by force if necessary?”
“It’s true…we were sent to revive the legend, but not for Arus’ sake….”
“What changed then?” I asked, and Sven sighed.
“We met Princess Allura….saw the plight of her people first hand….We gave back their hope in finding Voltron….we couldn’t bear to extinguish it, even if it meant going against Garrison’s orders.”
“I’m sure Garrison wasn’t happy with that.” I said, spying the entrance to the mine shaft in the distance.
“They weren’t.” Agreed Sven. “But there was little they could do without damaging their reputation in the eyes of the worlds that made up the alliance. And really? They couldn’t afford to split their focus between Arus and the Doom Empire. If we had fought against each other, Doom surely would have crushed both the Alliance and Voltron. It was a lose lose situation as far as Garrison was concerned.”
“In a way, it sounds like you had decision much like I had.” I said. “You had to choose between the loyalty to Garrison, and the people of Arus.”
“Yeah…you’re right.” Sven agreed. “But…and this is the important thing…I chose to do the right thing, the only thing I could do.”
My face burned with embarrassment at that recrimination. “You’ve never hesitated, never knew doubt?” I asked, then didn’t let him answer. “I was filled with it…to the point I could do nothing. I couldn’t even fight on Pollux, knowing what was happening was wrong. A lot of good that knowledge did Romelle…”
“You regret it…”
“Of course I do!” I was passionate in my response. “There’s so much that could have been avoided if I had just helped her escape before we got to Doom. Hell, maybe if I had warned her before the Voltron Force arrived on Pollux, events could have played at differently. Doom would have never gotten to betray Pollux…”
“Romelle tells me Lotor claimed her father was planning to betray Doom as well. That King Cova had the ambition to rule the Denubian Galaxy.”
“That doesn’t make it right what Doom did. To him, his daughter, or to his people!” I retorted. We were almost to the mine shaft, and I reached to take a light disc off my belt. “Romelle was innocent in all that….she was just a pawn….her father’s and Doom’s….”
“Yeah….” Sven almost sounded sad in his agreement. “Is that it?” he asked, and I nodded.
“You gonna shoot me now?”
“I haven’t decided.” Sven said. “I still don’t trust you, but you make me think….in ways I am not comfortable with.”
“The same can be said about me and the situation that surrounded Romelle…” I whispered, and together we entered the mines. The things I had stolen from the military wasn’t located near the front of the mines but much deeper inside. The light I carried barely made a difference in the dark, casting a green stream directly ahead of us. In the darkness we could hear the skittering of some small creatures, but nothing lunged out at us.
“So…you really were serious about causing trouble for Doom.” Sven said, when we reached the back, my light falling on the explosives and other oddities I had taken from the Drule soldiers.
“Of course.” Was my answer. “It’s the only purpose I had left…”
“Had?” Sven questioned sharply.
“I never expected to see Romelle again.” I knelt down by a half filled crate. It held mainly the materials needed to make several bombs, each of different types. I began filling the crate up the rest of the way, determined to bring as much as I could carry back to the base camp of the humans.
“Does seeing Romelle change your purpose?” Sven wanted to know. I nodded.
“I can do right by her now…” I said, handling the items carefully. “I can begin to truly make amends…” Suddenly I heard the hum of his weapon heating up, the sound making me stiffen in surprise. I didn’t turn though, sure he would shoot me if I moved.
“I won’t let you use her…” He hissed. “Not just to ease some guilt of yours.”
“It’s more than just guilt.” I said, my voice calm though I was not. “I…I care for her…”
“She’s had enough of your kind of care.” Sven retorted.
“You’re protective of her…so am I…”
“Don’t compare me to you.” Sven snapped, his voice racketing up a notch in anger.
I didn’t apologize. “What are you going to tell Romelle if you shoot me?” That got him to be silent. “Why does it bother you so…my wanting to help Romelle…?”
“Is that why you’re doing all this? To help her? When you wouldn’t before…?”
“What other reason could there be?” I wondered.
“You tell me.” He ordered.
“Do I make you insecure soldier?”
“Of course not!” He scoffed.
“Then put down the weapon.” I told him.
“You’ll hurt Romelle if I do….” But he sounded just a tad uncertain.
“I’ll do nothing of the sort.” I was firm, but so was he.
“Just seeing you hurts her. Don’t you think she’s not reminded of everything she’s been through every time she looks at you?!” I had no counter to that, and fought not to shrug my soldiers. “You’re a burden Sabbath, a painful reminder…one she doesn’t want, and doesn’t need…”
“Did Romelle tell you that?” I asked.
“She doesn’t need too!” insisted Sven.
“So you’re making decisions for her? Thinking you know what’s best for her?”
“Damn straight I do!” I couldn’t help it, I growled in response.
“You know nothing….and will continue to be ignorant until you sit down and ask Romelle what she really feels…what she really needs.”
“She’s too kind hearted to tell me to kill you.” Sven retorted. “She…she feels a connection to you, thinks you two survived a nightmare together…”
“You can’t compare what she went through to what happened to you!” Sven snarled.
“It was a different kind of pain, but we suffered together…” I paused, not meaning to goad him. But the words came out regardless. “You remind me of Lotor. He didn’t understand our connection either. Would have killed me because of it…”
“I wish he had killed you.” Muttered Sven.
“Pity for you, I’m still alive.” I sighed then, feeling so tired. “If you’re going to kill me, do it now….” But the laser never came, the weapon continuing to hum as Sven stood behind me.
“What will you do…to make amends?” He asked instead of shooting me.
“Well, to start, help you make the bomb that’s going to blow up that satellite.”
“I meant after….” I really didn’t know, and he sounded exasperated by it. “You won’t be able to stay on Doom…it’ll be dangerous, even for you.”
“But don’t think you’ll be coming with us when this is all over and done with.” Sven added.
I almost smirked then. “That’s not up to you, but to Romelle.”
He cursed then, but the charge of his weapon powered down. “She’ll let you come with us to planet Pollux. All because of some twisted affection for you. Sabbath…if you’re really sincere about doing right by her….you’ll walk away when this is all over and done with…”
“I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be but at her side…”
He cursed again. “I’ll find a place for you…somewhere far away from Pollux and Doom. Just…just don’t ruin her life any further…please…” Sven sounded almost desperate then. I was finally free to look at him, confidant I wouldn’t be shot. We locked eyes, Sven’s upset. I wondered how lost my expression looked then as I whispered.
“If she asks me to stay…to come with her to Pollux…I won’t be able to refuse…I…I’ll never be able to refuse her again….”
“Damn you.” Sven ran a hand through his hair in agitation.
“I think I’ve been damned long before I met you.” I muttered, and lifted up the heavy crate. It was almost more than I could manage, and Sven moved to help me carry it. It eased some of my physical burden, but not the burden of my heart. I knew what I had said to him was true. I wouldn’t be able to walk away from Romelle this time. Not if she wanted me with her. I didn’t know what to hope for, a part of me desperately wanting to stay with Romelle. A part of me felt I was being a selfish Drule, staying with a girl whose only memories of me and my world were colored with torment.
What could I offer Romelle really? I feared it was as Sven said. I would be a constant source of pain, my face, my very being reminding her of the victimization she had endure at Lotor and the other Drules’ hands. Could we ever escape the memories of our past, or would the pain the abuse we had gone through forever color our interactions. I feared it would, and wondered if Romelle would be strong enough to turn her back on me.