Relative disclaimers apply.
Chapter 4: The Blood That Spills
"What got into him?" asked Pidge.
"I don't know," said Keith, "but he can't possibly be heading all the
way back to Earth in the Blue Lion. Once we get to Pollux let's see if
we can pick up his ion trail--see where he's gone."
Lance thought and then spoke to his fellow pilots. "I don't know where
they're going, but I don't think they're leaving too soon. They're
going to rescue their brother. That's why they need the Blue Lion!"
"Their brother?" echoed Hunk.
"Yeah. Sho. Their brother Sho was captured by allies of the Drule just
over a year ago, a little before we departed for Arus. Their family
reunion won't be complete without him. When I asked Lucia last night if
she had found him she wouldn't give me a direct answer. I bet Sho's
somewhere around here and he's still in danger."
"Any ideas where that might be?" asked Keith.
Lance's gaze fell. "No, I'm afraid not. Zarkon's been kicked off of
most of these worlds, but there are still quite a few that are under his
"Well, Lucia found out his location somehow, and she was all the way
back on Earth," said Pidge. "If her brother's around here she didn't
see him herself. If she found out there must be a way for us to do so
"That's right," agreed Hunk. "Maybe Coran knows something."
"It's worth a shot," said Keith with a nod. "We still have a long
flight ahead of us to planet Pollux, and if we can't find a trace of
where they've gone we'll need all the help we can get."
* * *
"Lucia, it is time to wake." Sven gently shook the shoulder of his
younger sister. "We're entering Knoll space. The atmospheric readings
are thin, but still within a tolerable level. This isn't a good planet
for humans to live on. If Sho is still here and alive I hope he is all
Lucia stirred, opening her eyes and nodding slowly to show that she
heard him. She pushed herself into a sitting position and brushed back
the straight long raven hair that spilled about her shoulders. "I'll be
ready," she said softly.
"Do you know where on the planet he is?"
"Yes. The transmission came from Garilon Labor Camp." She looked down
and let out a breath. "Why couldn't Zarkon use machines to do his work
rather than living, breathing slaves?"
Sven did not reply, knowing that none was needed. Lucia stood up behind
him and watched as the small planet grew in size before them. The
ground beneath the roiling blue clouds appeared brown and barren, though
closer inspection through the instruments revealed that the surface
actually teemed with life. The brown ripples across the earth were
massive fields, where herdbeasts could browse before being turned into
food for Zarkon's robeasts. Dotted in regular positions on the flat
surface of the northernmost continent were the labor camps, gray blocks
of metal and stone made to house the workers who tended the beasts.
"Do you think Sho would have been kept in the same camp?" Sven finally
"I don't know. Intelligence received no further transmissions from this
site. Since no rescue mission as been attempted by the Alliance I'm
hoping that Sho would have been kept alive." Lucia looked seriously to
her brother. "After all, a dead slave cannot work."
Sven returned her gaze. "You're letting this get too close to you. You
have to keep a level head while we're doing this. Getting angry or
bitter will do nothing."
"It's all a storm inside of me," she returned, again looking at the
looming planet ahead of them. "I will try to hold it in, but it's been
so long. The closer I get the more fervently I feel I must succeed.
You know what the stakes are now. I can't return without success."
"But if we destroy some of Zarkon's forces while we're here?"
Lucia smiled wanly. "Yes, then Galaxy Garrison might go a little easier
The Blue Lion circled to the dark side of the planet to dive into the
atmosphere under cover of night. Lucia gave Sven the coordinates of
Garilon and the lion soundlessly approached the camp undetected. Both
of them knew Zarkon's robots and ships would be after them the instant
the break in was detected, and that the lion possessed their best
chances for escape. Sven understood why Lucia had wanted to bring it
with her. The chances of any other ship leaving intact would be very
"We'll land here," he said, dropping altitude. "This will place us
about five kilometers away from the camp--hopefully far enough that they
will not see the lion even during the day."
"The tall grass should help hide us as well," Lucia added. "Five
kilometers really isn't much to cover with the new Armor."
The lion landed softly, bending the long brown stalks around it.
Outside the wind whistled, waving the grass in an intricate dance. For
as far as the siblings could see, there was only the night sky and the
grass beneath them.
Sven removed the key to Blue Lion and turned to his sister. "Are you
certain I'll be able to fly this Armor?"
She nodded, gesturing to her boxes. "There's an outfit and Armor in
there for you. The Armors of the AFIS are custom-made to discourage the
stealing of them. However my teammate, Aaron, happens to have much the
same build as you. It is his Armor that I brought with my own. Using
the Armor is relatively simple. It acts as an extension of your own
body, enhancing the abilities you already have, so that when you jump,
it will as well, only extending the height and length you may leap. I
admit it takes a little getting used to in order to properly gauge how
much power to use, but we have five kilometers to make it to the camp
and if we hoof it rather than fly then you will have an opportunity to
get accustomed to it."
Lucia opened one of the boxes and pulling out a dark blue jumpsuit.
Like the lighter blue one she wore, it possessed a multitude of metal
rings and plates. "Get in this. You can't wear the armor without it."
Sven took it somewhat reluctantly and then Lucia dug deeper into her
boxes to remove a second pair of gloves and another hawk beaked helmet.
Shortly thereafter a flared set of shining pauldrons, laser mounted
vambraces, and titanium leg greaves followed. The set was completed
with a boxlike backpack that housed small thrusters capable of
propelling a human into the air. Once airborne the flared shoulder armor
functioned as both rudders and wings.
She held the heavy metal pack momentarily in her hands before setting it
down. Her face was troubled. "If you should be fired upon," she said,
"don't let them strike this. It holds the energy supply of the Armor,
and is powered by fission. This is what allowed me to fly the
Sparrowhawk for so long towards Arus when it was otherwise impossible.
The power that allows it to break down atoms for energy is dangerous to
harness. But for missions like those intended for its use, that is an
Lucia instructed Sven to snap the pauldrons on to the upper body harness
of his jumpsuit as she demonstrated with her own set of armor, removed
from the other box. The vambraces and leg greaves offered protection
while crouching down in the midst of potentially hazardous ground and in
addition the vambraces provided a convenient weapon that could not
easily be disarmed. A set of buttons usually shielded by a panel near
the wrist allowed for the more complex commands such as initiation of
flight, firing of the vambrace laser, and the changing of transwaver
Once the both of them were armored they left the Blue Lion behind them
and began the run towards Garilon Labor Camp.
* * *
Sven found the Armor boosted his natural abilities as Lucia said it
would. The gravity of planet Knoll was near equal to Earth's, yet the
Armor allowed him to take long, giant strides that swallowed the many
meters like a famished beast. Lucia had activated her thrusters and
flew alongside him scarcely a meter and a half above the ground, a feat
impossible by any other means of mechanical flight. As they neared the
camp Sven took to flight, balancing himself with reflexes he had
acquired during zero-gravity combat training back at the academy on
Earth. He mastered the ability faster than he thought he would.
Lucia lead the way, darting low above the grass, then landing near the
shadow of the walled camp. Sven followed her and together they crept
into the darkness. The wall would be no obstacle at all, but the lights
from their Armors' flight would alert any guards posted. Out on the
brighter fields on this mostly cloudless night, the lights could be more
easily concealed, but within the blackened confines of the stone camp
there was nothing to disguise the power from their packs as anything
"Can you see anyone?" Lucia asked.
"No," Sven replied. "But I think there's something resembling a guard
post up there. It's probably to keep an eye on prisoners and catch them
as they escape."
"Well, they can't see us that well where we are right now. Even though
Zarkon's guards are robots I believe they only possess normal vision,
"That is correct."
"Turn the knob on the side of your helmet. No, the other side. The
right is the comm and the left control the light filters of your
faceplate. Turn it clockwise until you hear a click."
The colors he could see shifted to various shades of green, but now
their intensity had been magnified manyfold. He found he could see
almost as well in daylight, albeit in monochrome. There was a standing
form in the depths of the guard post, a concentrated green blob of light
centered mainly at about chest height.
"There's a robot there," said Lucia, looking up. "I bet what we're
seeing is the heat from its processors. A living being should be even
brighter than that. I can't tell if it's facing towards us though."
Sven nodded. "But it hasn't seen us yet. Otherwise it would have
"I know." Lucia lifted her right arm, left hand poised above the
buttons around her wrist. "And it won't alert anyone." She tapped one
button and the display in her helmet magnified ten times. Readings
spilled out to one side of her vision, projecting her aim as she brought
her arm into proper alignment. A red light flashed, indicating the shot
ready, and she fired.
The laser was a swift, small bolt of light, nearly undetectable as
anything other than a trick of the eye. But the heat registered in
their night vision as a vivid burst of green that struck its target.
For a moment the green became even brighter, then dimmed with a sense of
Lucia looked around. "There don't appear to be any other robots in
sight. I think we can at least fly high enough to hang on to the top of
the wall and pull ourselves up."
"Don't forget to turn your backpack off before climbing up. There may
be more guards elsewhere."
The two flew up the wall with a series of controlled bursts. Once
hovering within reach of the top of the wall above them they grabbed
hold and cut the power. Sven poked his head up first, turning his gaze
one way then another. No telltale heat signatures emerged anywhere else
the wall. He pulled himself all the way up then turned to help Lucia.
After a mutual nod they headed for the guard post where Lucia had fired.
Inside they found the broken body of one of Zarkon's robots. Its hand
was extended towards a broad button but had failed to reach. Beneath
its body was a hatch presumably leading into the complex below. Lucia
bent to roll the robot away and lifted the hatch to reveal a steel
ladder going down.
"It looks like we have our way in," said Sven.
* * *
The prisoners of Garilon Labor Camp were a miserable lot, subsisting on
little more than a pasty gruel made from the same grains fed to the
herdbeasts outside. Robots possessed no compassion, no appreciation for
the simple variations that made an otherwise drudge-filled life
bearable. Each day the food was given out in the same sized portions of
the same moist paste at the same time of day without fail. Between the
rigorous work schedule, the lack of freedom, and the monotony of life,
it was little wonder that some of the prisoners committed suicide.
As a teenage boy watched the prisoner in the cell across from him mouth
her tasteless gruel he reflected on how he sometimes entertained the
notion of suicide himself. It would be an escape from the flogging the
robots liked to give him, escape from the same damn gruel everyday. The
food was not filling, and he knew he had lost far too much weight in the
year he had been here. He was tired of going to bed hungry every night.
The boy then turned to the second straw mat in his cell. His cellmate
had died earlier this week--just collapsed in the middle of hauling
water, and nothing would ever get him up again. His companion had been
only a few years older than him, and was in the phase of life when he
was supposed to be at his strongest. The boy wondered how long he
himself would live. He had snuck into the radio room to send a distress
message over three months ago, but there still had been no rescue.
Didn't anyone care about the people here? About him?
"Papa..." he murmured. Tears had long since ceased to fall from his
eyes, but his youthful face was drawn with despair. He must not die as
a slave. If the Alliance would not rescue him he should at least try to
escape; again. At the worst he would be killed, and that was not
looking as unattractive an option now.
He leaned back on his mat, back against the wall and arms folded behind
his head. Perhaps tomorrow he could try something. He was scheduled
for field fertilizing and that invariably took him a good distance away
from the confines of the camp. The bane of any attempted escape was the
flat land of the fields, which would allow sentries to spot fugitives
from greater than normal distances. The fields set for fertilization
were invariably cut to the ground, without any of the tall grass usable
for cover. But if he managed to slip into a ditch or something while
the guards were not looking, if he could even find a ditch...
A shadow detached itself from the wall in the hall outside his cell and
the boy wondered for an instant if it was his imagination. He narrowed
his eyes to the point they appeared closed and watched the silent shadow
pass in front of the cell across from him. The bipedal shape appeared
to turn its large wedge-shaped head to look inside, then it crossed over
to his side of the hallway.
The boy tensed, wondering what sort of new guard Zarkon could have
hired. For a moment he had the fear that it had come for him, to
eliminate him for being an awful slave and a dangerous nuisance besides.
Instead, the alien head lowered and spoke to him. Its voice was coarse
"Sho Shirogane?" it asked. "Is that you?"
The boy's heart skipped a beat. "Yes," he replied hesitantly, opening
his eyes. He stood and took a step towards the bars of his cell. This
was the dead of night. Who was this person? "What do you want?" he
"To get you out of here." The visitor reached up and removed the wedge
of its head, a helmet, to reveal the shadowed face of a human male.
"It's me, Sven," said the now familiar voice.
Sho felt his knees begin to weaken and grabbed hold of the bars to
steady himself. "You came!" he said softly. "You got the message."
"Actually Lucia did. She's here too, standing watch at the hallway
door. If any patrols come by here she'll take care of them."
"She's graduated from the academy?"
Sven smiled. "From what I can tell, she's one of the best." He lifted
one of his armored arms. "Now stand back. We're going to get you out
Sho complied, but asked, "What about everyone else? We can't leave them
Sven hesitated only a moment before activating his laser in a steady
beam mode to cut across the cell bars. "I don't know," he answered
honestly. "Lucia did not say. We only came because you were here. The
Galaxy Alliance did not sanction this mission. Lucia is AWOL and I am
here to help her."
"AWOL! But she had her heart set on becoming captain of a special
flight squadron, like the Voltron Force or something."
Sven told Sho to hold the bars so that they would not clatter when he
cut them across the bottom of his cell. "I don't know about being a
captain, but she at least has her special squadron. I'm wearing the
combat gear of her new unit. She purloined it when she knew we would
have to fight to get you out."
"And I thought I was the one who always got in trouble."
"And you don't think where you are now is trouble?"
Sho lifted away the cut bars, wincing slightly from the pain in his sore
muscles. He set the bars gently on the ground away from his feet and
ducked beneath the remaining barriers. Grinning, he stood up on the
other side. "No, not anymore," he replied. "Thank you, Oniisan."
Sven smiled at Sho's usage of the Japanese word for elder brother.
"You're welcome. Now let's get going. Lucia is waiting. Let's see if
she has any ideas for getting your friends out."
He settled his helmet back into place and motioned for Sho to follow
him. The brothers silently darted down the corridor. It was a short
run, and the listless prisoners barely stirred in their cells as the two
men passed. When they came across Lucia they found her lowered in a
battle crouch, right arm slightly raised in preparation to fire. She
was on their side of the doorway leading back to the rest of the
complex, with her back to her brothers, and there were three robot
guards smoldering behind her.
Sven slowed his pace and swiveled the knob on the right side of his
helmet, switching his communication from external speakers to his helmet
frequency. "Lucia, I've got Sho. How's everything holding up here?"
"No injuries yet," she replied, "but I think if those guards behind me
don't report in soon we're going to have a yellow alert on our hands at
the very least." She glanced over her shoulder and waved to her younger
brother. "I hope he doesn't mind I'm not talking to him right now."
"Don't worry about it. Right now we just have to get Sho back to the
Blue Lion. I haven't told him about Father yet. Sho's not in good
health. He's looking fine now that he knows we're here, but he's pretty
beat and underweight. I think we should let him rest a while before
Lucia nodded, her _expression hidden behind the visor of her helmet.
"All right." She stood and prepared to go.
But Sven reached out and grabbed hold of her shoulder armor, preventing
her. "There is something else," he said. "Sho wants us to free the
rest of the prisoners here. He is right, we can't leave them here and
take only him."
Lucia did not turn back around, though her head lowered as if in defeat.
"Of course. It would be easiest but..."
Sven pressed his attack. "Do you know how we might do this?"
She looked up and over her shoulder. Though Sven could not see her face
he knew it was grim. "Yes," she said. "I saw a hall that may lead to a
master control room on our way in. There's no way we can defeat every
last guard on our own and see everyone to safety, but we can at least
hope there is a remote access to open everyone's cells and give them a
* * *
The way back was more difficult than coming in. Sven and Lucia stayed
ahead of Sho, opening fire readily at the first sign of a patrol. The
robots appeared with greater frequency as they progressed, and the three
began to sacrifice stealth in favor of speed. When they reached the end
of the long hallway to their destination Sven took out the guards with
two well-placed shots. Lucia palmed the broad button to open the thick
control room door and threw herself to one side to avoid outgoing
The klaxon rang, chilling the three siblings to the bone. Horribly
aimed lasers shot through the opened door, which revealed a small room
held by three more robots and one of the pale green-skinned aliens that
also served Zarkon. The last was cowering behind a chair that faced
away from the doorway and towards a massive monitor and control desk.
Sven and Lucia disposed of the robots in a series of rapid exchanges of
fire. The remaining alien scrambled out of sight with a yelp. Lucia
turned her head back, listening to her external audio receptors.
Footsteps had begun to echo from down the passage behind them. Sven
heard them as well and motioned for the three of them to enter.
Lucia slipped in first, scanning either side for the alien, but instead
discovered an open door to a smaller chamber to her left. A ladder lead
up into the darkness beyond. A quick inspection revealed that the door
could only be opened from the inside. It was probably designed as an
emergency escape route, and the alien had used it well. Sensing nothing
immediately threatening through her instruments, Lucia knelt down
between the seat and the console. She powered up her laser and began to
cut through the metal panels. Sven shut the main door and took up guard
beside it. Sho looked about himself uncertainly, then knelt down to
pick up a laser rifle from one of the fallen guards.
"Can you turn that alarm off?" asked Sho.
His sister switched to her external speakers with a quick motion after
removing a cut slab of metal. "Almost on it. At this point it probably
won't do much, but it might buy us a little time." She struggled with
something deep within the belly of the console then sat up in the chair.
Her fingers danced across the many keys. "King Zarkon's computer
systems operate somewhat similarly to the Alliance's. I should have it
off right about..." She tapped a final button as she looked up at the
The ensuing silent nearly deafened them in another fashion when suddenly
a loud clash sounded against the door to the hallway.
Lucia scrambled out another command. "I've cut the power to the door."
Sven nodded, his voice also coming from his externals. "But it won't
take them long to try melting their way through."
"All I need is a couple minutes." A map appeared on the monitor,
flashing some sort of icon over the northwestern section of the squarish
complex. Lucia continued to work with the computer, and the display
changed, revealing alien symbols that served as Doom's written language.
"Section A prisoners have been freed," she announced.
Sven watched the door anxiously. It had grown quiet on the other side.
Then a new sound emerged; a hissing sound.
Lucia pulled a long black cord from the vambrace on her right arm and
plugged it into the console. "Attention, prisoners of King Zarkon!"
Her voice echoed on the loudspeakers throughout the labor camp. "This
is Lieu-" She suddenly broke off, acutely aware that this was not an
Alliance sanctioned mission. "This is a friend, from planet Earth. I
regret that I cannot personally guide each and every one of you to
safety, but as you can tell from the alarms that have sounded, my
presence is now known to your jailers." The control room monitored the
location of every robot in the complex and she worked to seal off
corridors as she spoke. "If you are in Section A you can find your way
to the escape ships by..."
The heat sensors in Sven's helmet began to detect a marked rise in
temperature around the center of the main door.
"Please be careful because there are still a few robots in your paths
and there may be organic members of Zarkon's forces as well," concluded
Lucia after giving directions to the prisoners of all four section
blocks. She prayed that she did the right thing by freeing them when so
many dangers still lurked in their way.
"Lucia, we've got to go," said Sven.
She nodded back to him. "Almost. Section C is opening just now, and
after that only D is left. Most of the robots are thankfully in that
long corridor behind us. They all came here because of the alarm." She
turned her gaze to the open door to her left. "You guys better get
going while I finish up here. Sho's going to have to actually climb up
the ladder while you and I can fly up."
Sho opened his mouth to protest, but Sven shook his head. The younger
of the two brothers obediently slung the rifle over his shoulder and
after carefully peering up the small chamber, began to climb the long
"C is open," said Lucia. "I'm working on D now."
Sven moved over beside the door to the smaller chamber. "They'll be
through any second now. We have to leave." His voice was soft, yet
"Sven, I agreed to free the prisoners, and I will. You're right about
what my standing with Galaxy Garrison will be after I return. If not
for Sho, I need to do this for myself."
After a moment he reluctantly nodded. "All right."
He turned to go when a sudden humming rose and the main door blew in.
It careened wildly to one side, nearly striking Sven as it teetered.
The metal sheet landed on the floor with a deafening clang, bent
awkwardly as though to still protect those inside.
Sven saw Lucia stand, whirling around to face her attackers when the
bright red beam of light struck her. She fell back, red blossoming from
her chest, then from her arms and legs. Her hands gripped the console
as though to keep her standing, but she could not hold herself in the
rain of light. Lucia lifted her head and weakly pressed a final button
before she collapsed.
Sven's audio receptors picked up the sound of her voice despite the
immediate chaos before her.
"Section D released," she murmured.
To Chapter Five
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