Songbird 42

It would take another two days for Sven and I to return to the base camp. It was well into the evening when the cave’s entrance came into sight, the two of us struggling with our heavy burden. The sight of the cave made me want to push onwards, but Sven whispered urgently for me to stop. Surprised I did as he asked, looking curiously at him.

“What is it?” A bit paranoid, I looked around wondering if he had somehow noticed something amiss. But my hearing which is much sharper than a human’s, picked up no out of place sound. My eyes could see nothing that stood out against the dark landscape of Doom.

“Didn’t mean to alarm you.” But he didn’t sound that apologetic. “But…I wanted to ask, no beg you…please….Walk away from Romelle.”

“Sven….”

“Please…I never thought I would ask a Drule a favor, let alone beg one…but for her I will. It’s for the best…you know it is…Leave now…” He implored me. “She need never see you again. You’ll just…disappear from her life. A memory best forgotten.”

I didn’t like that, and let that show on my face. “You’ll let her think I abandoned her? Again?”

“Better you fail her now, then later…” Sven said.

“I won’t fail her.” I insisted. “Not ever again.”

“You’re failing her right now!” He snapped. “She’s trying to move on from what has happened. She won’t be able to do that if you’re in her life…”

“And you think running wild on Doom without a concrete plan is a better way of moving on?” I demanded.

“She’s coping in the only way she knows how…” He defended.

“That doesn’t excuse bringing her into danger!” I snapped. “She should be at home, on Pollux…not here on Doom.”

“I intend to bring her back to Pollux as soon as this is over…”

“You don’t even know where that satellite is.” I pointed out. “You wouldn’t even have the explosives needed to destroy a facility of that size without me. You’re all aimless. You may have come here with the best intentions, but that will only get you so far.”

“You want me to admit we needed help?” Sven’s expression hardened. “Fine, I can do that. We were just barely managing till you came along…”

“That’s not enough to satisfy me.” I retorted. “I can’t walk away…not so long as she’s here. Someone has to make sure she remains safe…”

“You think I can’t keep her safe?” He was insulted now. “I managed just fine in keeping her away from you Drules after Lotor left her for dead in the pit of skulls.”

“Yes, you did.” I acknowledge. ‘But your luck can only hold out for so long. For that matter, so can mine….”

“Walk away Sabbath…” Sven hissed. “Walk away now…”

I shook my head. “There’s nothing you can say or do to get me to do that. You’ll have to kill me first, and you already proved you won’t do that.”

“Don’t get overconfident over my moment of indecision back in the mines!” Snapped Sven. “I’m still prepared to do what I have to if you prove a threat to her….”

“Just keep walking.” I ordered, prepared to take the burden of the crate from him. He grumbled, but began to move with me then swore. I wondered why, ready to drop the crate and draw a weapon when a voice whispered loudly.

“Sven! Sabbath!”

This time I joined Sven in cursing, turning to glance over my shoulder. A gold haired vision clad in pink and white clothing was running towards us, a relived look on her face. Behind Romelle came Malkom and Dealian, both men running to catch her. She lifted a hand in greeting, eyes sparkling with excitement. It dimmed down some when she saw the stony expression on both my face and Sven’s.

“What are you doing out here?!” hissed Sven. “Why are you not in the cave?”

“I…”

“I told you to stay put!” He continued. “You can’t risk being seen…..none of us can!”

“It’s no less dangerous than what you and Sabbath have done!” She countered. Sven opened his mouth to retort, but I talked over him.

“Save the reprimands and arguing for later. We shouldn’t remain outside any longer than necessary.”

“You’re right Sabbath.” Agreed Romelle, and Sven grunted. All five of us hurried as fast as possible to the cave. Sven and I were slowed down by the heavy crate, but we managed to get inside without being seen. It was with great relief that we set the crate down on the center of the blankets, Romelle and the two men from Pollux coming over to peer inside the wooden box.

“Wow…there’s so much to choose from!” exclaimed Romelle, clasping her hands together.

“This is way more than the amount we had brought with us.” Added Malkom.

“Please tell me Romelle stayed put for most of the four days we were gone.” Sven wasn’t content to let the issue drop, and neither was I. We both looked at Dealian who had been appointed to watched over Romelle while Malkom went out on his reconnaissance mission.

Dealian was hesitating. “For the most part yes…”

“The most part?” Sven’s tone was sharp.

“I didn’t run into any more soldiers, if that’s what you’re worried about!” snapped Romelle, hands now on her hips. “But I was getting cabin fever just waiting here…”

“The princess went out every morning and every evening to search for you.” Explained Dealian. “We never went out further than the first outcropping of rocks.”

“We always stayed in sight of the cave entrance.” Added Romelle. Sven made an exasperated sound, but it was I who spoke.

“That was one risk too many. You’re very lucky nothing happened.”

“What about you?” She demanded. “You two were gone for four, nearly five days. Anything could have happened, especially once you were bogged down with so big a crate.”

“It’s a risk we were willing to take.” I said, then smirked. “Besides…if we came across any patrols, I was prepared to tell them Sven is my slave and is assisting me on a hunt.”

“Slave? Me?!” sputtered Sven, sounding angry. “I’ll never be a slave again. Least of all yours!”

“Not even to save your life?” I asked. He hesitated, his expression turning into a scowl. “It wouldn’t have been for real. It would have only been to keep up appearances. Besides…” My tone was lofty, I was almost casual as I said the following. “I’ve never kept slaves for myself.”

“Like I’d believe that.” Dealian scoffed.

“I don’t care what you believe. It’s the truth.” I snapped. I wasn’t about to go into my personal history and tell them about my mother and life in the brothel. Let them think what they wanted, I knew the truth and so did Romelle.

Malkom was digging through the crate, pulling out vials of chemicals needed for the bombs. He seemed to want no part of the conversation we were having, more focused on getting the things needed to start constructing a bomb. Occasionally he would murmur something in his native language, sounding excited.

“Got everything we need?” Romelle asked him, and he nodded.

“Good.” Sven said, satisfied. “Did you find out anything when you went out to spy?”

“Yes.” He slowly set down a vial of reddish orange fluid. “I ventured near to one of the slave camps.”

“Isn’t that too risky for a human?” I asked.

“It was…but it paid off.” Malkom gave us a grim smile. “It’s all anyone could talk about. Especially the soldiers. The tournaments are over with, the robeasts amassed and ready to be transported to the satellite.”

“They’re transporting them already?” I asked alarmed. That didn’t give us much time to work with.

“The ships will be leaving first thing tomorrow.” Continued Malkom, and gave us a grave look. “You made it back just in time…”

“Can we have the bombs ready in time?” wondered Romelle.

“If we work through the night making them…” I assured her.

“Doesn’t matter if we get the bombs made if we can’t get aboard one of those ships.” Sven pointed out.

“Yeah…about that…” Dealian moved away from the crate, walking over to a bundle underneath one of the blankets. “While you were gone, we were coming up with a plan of our own….”

“Oh?”

We watched as Dealian shifted the blankets, revealing what looked like a dead alien’s body. It was hollow inside, and I realized it was a kind of costume. It was made to resemble a robeast, and could have come from any of a hundred worlds that Doom had been to recently.

“The princess was busy putting this together for the last three days.” Dealian said, shaking out the costume.

“I sewed until I thought my fingers would fall off.” Added Romelle shyly. I looked closely at her hands, seeing she wore flesh colored bandages on several of her fingers.

“And what’s the point of this?” Sven asked, frowning.

“We thought one of us could sneak onboard a ship pretending to be a robeast. Once at the facility, we could then destroy it….” explained Dealian.

“Destroy it how?” I wanted to know. “You didn’t have enough explosives to do that…”

“I would have thought of something once I arrived on the satellite.” Dealian said, more than a tad defensive. I couldn’t help snorting in response, sure Dealian would have succeeded in only getting himself killed.

“How much training you have?” I asked out loud.

“I’ve had enough.” He retorted.

“That doesn’t tell me much.” Was my reply. “These aren’t just Drules you were about to tangle with, but men and women trained by the Empire. Your best probably won’t ever be enough to deal with that kind of situation.”

Dealian bristled, dropping the costume and stepping towards me. “Listen you…”

“He’s right.” Sven said. “You aren’t equipped to deal with the Drules. Neither of you are.” He smiled, but it was humorless. “But a Garrison soldier is….”

“What are you saying Sven?” Romelle asked with a gasp. “You’re not going to…”

“I have to Romelle.” He insisted. “I’m better equipped to do this than any one else here, maybe except for Sabbath.” And he didn’t trust me for this important a mission. Romelle realized that mistrust, looking unhappy as she looked between us both.

“It’s a suicide run…” She pointed out. “Whoever goes most likely won’t be coming back…”

“I’ve dealt with bad odds before.” Sven answered. “I got you off of Doom, didn’t I?”

“Not without the loss of all those men who tried to come with us.” Romelle reminded him. “They lost their lives…”

“They GAVE their lives…” he corrected her, walking over to the costume. “So we could escape…”

“And you would have their sacrifice be for nothing!” She cried out.

“It’s not for nothing.” He snapped back, picking up the costume. It would fit him with room to spare, and had a seperate head to go over his. “They would be happy if through their sacrifice I—we did something to save the galaxy from the Drules.”

“But…”

“I’m going to do it Romelle.” Sven said, trying on the head for size. “Any more talk on this would be wasting all of our time. And we don’t have much left. We have to get those bombs ready before morning.”

“He’s right princess.” Malkom spoke up. “We have to use our time wisely if we’re going to stop Zarkon’s new army.”

Romelle’s eyes looked wet, her lower lip trembling. She abruptly turned, and moved to run out of the cave, but I caught hold of her arm. At the same instant Sven shouted, his voice muffled from inside the costume’s head.

“Romelle!” She froze, but didn’t turn to look at either of us. “You can’t go out. We need your hands to help us with the bombs…”

“Romelle..” I was whispering to her. “Remember what Avok told you. The good of one…”

“Can’t outweigh the good of many.” She whispered it with me. “Yes. I understand.” She turned then, her expression fierce. “But I don’t have to like it!”

“No one is asking you to.” I told her.

“Come on….” Sven said, having pulled off the head. “Malkom and I will tell the rest of you what to do. If you follow our instructions carefully, you won’t blow us all up.”

“That’s a vote of confidence if ever I heard one.” Grumbled Dealian. I nearly laughed in agreement with the blonde man’s words.

“Sabbath, do you have any experience with explosives?” Sven wanted to know.

“I know enough to make a few bombs.” I told him, and he nodded in satisfaction.

“Good…then work with Dealian. Malkom you help Romelle….” And Sven would work alone. Each of us would go to a separate corner of the cave, a generous amount of the crate’s supplies divided among us. We’d work near tirelessly, hours going by as each one of worked on making enough explosives and bombs for Sven to carry. The smaller explosives would be strapped to his body via belts, while the larger bombs would be inside a backpack. The robeast costume was big enough that Sven could fit his pack inside it, and still move around unhindered.

As the morning began to near on Doom, I looked up, seeing Romelle approach Sven. She was carrying a cup, steam lifting off it’s brown surface. “Sven…” She said softly. “I’d wish you’d rest. Even for just an hour…”

“There’s no time for that.” Sven retorted, nodding his thanks as he took the coffee from Romelle.

“She’s right you know. I called out to them. “You won’t be as effective if you don’t get some rest.”

“I’ll sleep on the ship.” Sven retorted, looking annoyed that I had put my two cents in.

“What if the satellite is close enough to Doom that you don’t have time to sleep?” Asked Romelle. She was chewing on her bottom lip, betraying how worried she was with that nervous habit. “Or what if you oversleep?”

“I won’t.” Sven assured her. “I know what rides on this plan. I won’t let anything stop me….certainly not a little thing called sleep.” He tried to smile at her, but Romelle wasn’t reassured. It made him sigh, Sven setting aside his cup to take hold of her right hand. “Romelle, I promise you I will succeed.”

“Promise me you’ll come back.” She urged him, and was met with silence. “Sven?”

“Sabbath…” Sven spoke to me instead. “Promise me you’ll get them off the planet if I don’t come back? Get them all off?”

“Even Dealian?” I pretended to groan but no one was amused. “I promise.”

“We’re not leaving without you!” Romelle was alarmed.

“I might die Romelle. I don’t want you to die here on Doom, or end up in that bastard’s hands again.” Sven told her. She jerked her hand free, visibly upset. “You have to promise me. Promise you won’t fight Dealian and Malkom. Promise me that you’ll leave Doom together…”

Romelle didn’t look like she was ready to promise anything, and Sven sighed. “Sabbath, I’m trusting you to get them off this world. But I also trust that you’ll consider what I told you back in the mines…”

“What did you tell him?” Romelle wanted to know.

“It’s nothing to concern yourself over with.” Sven retorted, and her temper flared.

“Stop keeping secrets from me! I have a right to know!”

“Not about this…” Sven insisted. I kept silent. I was torn on whether she really had the right, since what Sven referred to affected both Romelle and myself. But I knew to bring it to Romelle’s attention was to put an awful burden on her. She might very well ask me to come to Pollux in response to learning what Sven had asked of me. “Sabbath…promise me…”

“I already made my mind up about that.” I told him. “Besides…it’s not up to me anymore…”

He and Romelle both frowned, but for different reasons. “Damn stubborn Drule!” Sven muttered, and turned back to the bomb he had almost completed. It was the largest of the five made, and would do the most damage.

“You’re no different than he is!” announced Romelle, and before Sven could stop her, she ran towards the cave entrance. He swore and started to stand, but I waved him back.

“Let me…” He didn’t look happy, but Sven didn’t argue as I moved to chase after Romelle. I’d find her just a few feet from the cave entrance, the princess crouching down on her knees. She was drawing circles in the dirt, and what looked to be angry tears were trailing down her cheeks.

“What did Sven talk to you about?” She demanded without looking up.

I hesitated, moving to kneel down besides her. “It’s not important.” I said at last.

“It sounded important to me.” She retorted.

“It’s something that’s between me and Sven. I won’t betray his confidence.” Romelle made a scoffing sound at that. “We should go back inside….”

“What will you do when this is all over?” Romelle asked instead.

“I don’t know.” It was technically true, my ultimate destination unknown. I both wanted to and didn’t want to go to Pollux with Romelle.

“It’ll be dangerous on Doom. They’ll be looking for someone to blame on what happened.” Continued Romelle. “But more than that, this war will end eventually. Voltron will find a way to crush the Doom Empire. And when that happens…”

“The planet will most likely fall into chaos.” I finished for her. “At least until the Alliance can set up a new government.”

“People will die before that happens. There will be riots…”

“I’ll manage…”

“You were a prominent figure in the Empire’s military. If the citizens of Doom don’t come after you, the Alliance most likely will…” She whispered.

“They won’t catch me. I won’t let them.” I said confidently.

“I don’t want to run that risk.” Romelle confessed. She gave me a sidelong glance, fingers still circling in the dirt. “Will you come back to Doom after you see us off from the planet?”

“Most likely yes. I have nowhere else to go.” I admitted.

“Surely that’s not true!” Romelle protested. “There’s hundreds of thousands worlds that exist in the Denubian Galaxy.”

“But they are either part of the Doom Empire, or worlds that would not welcome a Drule.” I sighed then. “I’ve gone over my options carefully….there’s no other place that would accept me.”

She went silent at that, though her one hand reached up to brush angrily at her wet eyes. “It’s not fair…” She said after a few minutes.

“Life seldom is.” I said tiredly. I started to stand, ready to lead her back into the cave. But she grabbed my arm, and pulled me off balance besides her. “Romelle!”

“Sabbath…you could….you could stay on Pollux.” It was what I had been both hoping and dreading she would say. “There would be no reason for you to leave after you escort us there….”

Sven would argue that there was a dozen reasons why I should do the exact opposite of what Romelle offered. But I didn’t dare bring his name into this. “Romelle…”

“I could grant you safe asylum. Between that and your efforts against Doom…we could make a case for your freedom against the Alliance…” She looked hopefully at me.

“Your people would most likely never accept me in their lives.”

“I’d make them accept you!” I almost laughed then, shaking my head.

“You can’t force acceptance!”

“Well…you’re right…but I could help them to come to a better understanding….let them see that not all Drules are bad…” She said, staring at me.

“I doubt one Drule will be able to change their mind. Especially when that Drule is me…”

“Maybe…maybe not. We won’t know until we try!” Romelle insisted. “Oh please…please say you’ll come live on Pollux!” When I said nothing, she continued. “What do you have holding you to Doom?”

“Nothing.” I whispered. It was the truth too. All my ties were severed, and all I had left was a job and a home I didn’t much care about. My life had become all but meaningless without Romelle by my side.

Romelle smiled in response to my whisper, and pulled me to stand. “Well, then! It’s decided! You’ll come live on Pollux!”

“What will your brother think…” I asked, no longer offering her resistance.

“I’ll make him understand.” She was confidant then. “I’ll make them all understand!” She squeezed both of my hands in hers. “And you’ll help me…” Her eyes were no longer wet with tears, Romelle looking sure of the path she had laid out. I could only smile weakly, wondering what disasters would await us on Pollux. But the more pressing matter was telling Sven what we had decided. The thought almost made me weak in the knees, I actually stumbled as I allowed Romelle to lead me back into the cave.

Sven looked up at our return, but otherwise said nothing. His hands kept busy on the bomb, checking it over for imperfections. Romelle let go of my hand, and nervously approached Sven. They’d hold a hushed conversation, and save for a few angry looks, Sven ignored me. I didn’t think it was over that easily, but there really was no time to argue. We had to get the bombs packed, and the explosives strapped to Sven’s body.

Once Sven was suited up, the five of us would leave the cave. The fortress I had tracked the robeast to a few days ago was our destination, and the area around it was crowded with heavily armed soldiers. The Drules had the robeasts in a line up, the cankerous monsters walking single file. Anytime a robeast tried to break free of the line, several Drules would shoot. The blasts were of a low setting, meant to stun not kill.

“There they are…” Sven’s muffled voice whispered.

“Are you sure about this Sven?” Romelle asked, voice a soft hiss. “It’s not to late to back out…”

“But it is too late to come up with a new plan.” He retorted. The head of the robeast costume seemed to bob, Sven was giving a signal to Malkom and Dealian. An unsuspecting Romelle would be grabbed by them, the two holding her back as Sven moved to merge with the line of robeasts.

Romelle looked very much like she was going to cry out, and I put my finger to her lips. “Quiet.” My voice was a harsh whisper. “If you call out now, you’ll not only ruin the plan, you’ll most likely get Sven killed. Do you want that?”

Her defiance faded, Romelle seeming to sag in Malkom and Dealian’s hold. “No…”

“All we can do now is pray for his success.” I added, and Dealian snorted.

“Didn’t think Drules prayed.”

“We have Gods, the same as you do.” I retorted.

“Thought you were a bunch of heathen savages.” Was his reply.

“You thought wrong.” It was Romelle who spoke. “Let us return to the cave. We will pray…and maybe we can educate each other about the Gods we worship and our beliefs.”

Dealian didn’t look thrilled at the prospect of learning anything about a Drules’ religion, scowling angrily. Malkom nodded, ever respectful of the princess’ wishes. Together we would return to the cave, and we would indeed pray. And pray often. There wasn’t much else to do, save to hold vigil in the hopes Sven would return. Not even talking about our differences could help pass the time, all of us on edge and wondering if Sven would succeed.


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