Better Worse 12

There hadn’t been time to truly register just how much my life was changing. And all because I had received shock upon shock, learning one surprising or startling thing after another. It had started with the shock that my father was doing nothing to come to my rescue, that he hadn’t even sent a single ship to engage with Arus’ military. I felt abandoned by my own flesh and blood, but had not yet registered by how much. Not until Zarkon and Alfor revealed to me what fate awaited me.

The idea of marriage to Allura, to anyone, came as the second shock of the day. I wasn’t ready to be a husband, might never want to marry. And yet here they were, actively taking my choices from me. Ready to force me into a marriage that would be loveless and devoid of joy. I held no illusions that it could be a happy union, not after what I had done to Allura, the way I had treated her. Nor could I attempt to make amends when I was so angry at the thought of being forced to tie myself to her.

Of course I rebelled at the very idea. I shouted out protests, ones that were met with threats in return. Again it came to an issue of abandonment, my father revealing to me I would have no where to go, no one to turn to should I try to escape from Arus. But I couldn’t just give up and do as they asked. I couldn’t, wouldn’t give up my freedom anymore than Alfor had given in to my attempts at blackmail.

But I didn’t yet know how I could escape the fate being laid out before me. Nor had I had time to plan, yet another shock being revealed to me. Allura was pregnant, carrying a child we had conceived together. It was that very child that would force us together, the baby being the only reason Alfor agreed to the union. I might have still be rotting away in the castle dungeons, if not for the child. As far as Alfor was concerned, the child changed everything. But not for me. What use did I have for a baby? I wanted a child even less than I wanted a wife, and already I resented Allura and the baby she carried. And all because together, the two were ruining MY life.

I was not father or husband material. I was too young, too ingrained in my own way of thinking, too consumed with my own ambition and lusts. I wanted to be free to run wild, to dally with a different woman every night. I wanted none of the responsibilities that came with a wife and child. The only things I wanted was freedom, money and the right to rule over whatever planets I saw worthy of me.

But now I felt the leash tightening around me, my ambitions dying before they could ever get a chance to properly succeed. How would I ever get to expand the Doom Empire if I was trapped on Arus? Would I ever get a chance to sit upon Doom’s throne? I couldn’t even be cheered at the thought that through marriage to Allura, I was bringing Arus into the fold of the Doom Empire. And all because I had wanted the world but not at such a cost to me!

It didn’t seem fair to have a wife and a child forced onto me. They would only be burdens, ones I did not want to bear. I wasn’t thinking on how much more difficult it would be on Allura, especially if she were to raise the child as an unwed mother. I was selfish at that time, concerned only with how the marriage and child would affect MY life.

I needed answers. I needed to know just what this marriage would mean, how restricted I would be, what freedoms would be taken from me. But before I could question Alfor, I was removed from the room. Taken not to the dungeons, but to the medical wing of the castle. Guards would be everywhere, an increase in numbers that surely had to do with my presence here in the castle.

Nor would my chains be removed, forcing me to walk in humiliation through the castle corridors. I received many stares, heard much whispering behind my back. My angry gaze caused many to turn away, the people unsettled and frightened. It didn’t cheer me that I could still force people to cower even while I was chained. Their fright could do nothing for me, there was no benefit except to my ego. And even that enjoyment was dulled by the things I had learned.

Inside the medical wing, I would be taken to an exam room. My chains tethered in place to the metal rack of the bed. There were guards waiting just outside the room, armed and ready to shoot should I cause trouble. The chains were meant more to humiliate me than to keep anyone safe. We all knew it. It made me seethe to be so helpless, my anger almost preventing me from looking around to see if there was something, anything, I could use as a weapon.

But nothing looked viable. I wouldn’t be able to escape with anything found in this room. I’d continue to wallow in my anger, unable to stay still. My chains clanked and rattled with every step, the sound annoying but not enough to get me to stay still. I needed to keep moving, to stay active lest I start to scream. I didn’t know why they had brought me to the medical wing, but they kept me waiting an awfully long time.

My mood worsened for the wait. I was snapping with impatience, though I had nowhere to go. I assumed they’d return me to the dungeons, keep me in a cell until the wedding. I would find out how wrong I was once the doctor arrived. The brown haired human brought with him two guards, and a needle. That needle troubled me. I knew no reason for a shot. After all I was not sick. Nor was the doctor intent on drawing blood or a DNA sample.

Naturally I began to put up a fight, not wanting to be injected with some unknown substance. The two guards had difficulty restraining me, even with the chains holding me back. So much that a third guard had to be called into the room. I was shoved face down onto the bed, the needle being inserted into my skin. I lost consciousness soon after and would awake to pain in my arm.

The cause for that pain was an alarming sight. While I had been under the effects of the needle’s serum, they had performed a quick operation. An incision had been made in the upper portion of my left arm. And inside that cut, they had implanted a tracking device just like my father had suggested they do. My arm had been stitched closed, and probably wouldn’t even leave a scar. No one would ever know to look at it that I had a tracking device under the skin.

My anger only grew in response to that. It was spiraling out of control, made me react in violence once I processed what they had done to me. And the fact that all the chains had been removed. I don’t know if they grew overconfident, that they thought I wouldn’t try to escape with the device now implanted in me. But the guards were clearly not expecting me to attack.

I’d actually break the neck of one of the men, before I was shot with a stun blast. I’d hit the floor with a grunt, someone kicking me in the side as the others checked on the man I had killed. I am surprised they didn’t beat me more. I supposed they were under orders to not hurt me too badly until AFTER the wedding.

Regardless, handcuffs were put on me, my hands manacled together in front of me. But I wasn’t as heavily chained as I had previously been. The guards were cautious, but not to an extreme measure. But I could sense they didn’t like me, that they were eager for an excuse to hurt me more. Especially after I had killed one of their own.

I was locked inside the exam room. This was a step up from the dungeon cell, but a locked room is still a cage as far as I was concerned. I wondered how much time had passed, how long I had been unconscious for my procedure. Was it still two days before the wedding? Or was the time cut in half? I just didn’t know, and that bothered me.

Time was of the essence. I HAD to escape BEFORE I was forced into a marriage with Allura. I began to regret my action in killing the guard. I had let my anger rule me, let it control me to the point I had stopped thinking. It hadn’t been a good idea to kill the guard, especially since I had tasted freedom from the chains momentarily. Would they have even put the chains on me if I hadn’t attacked them first? I did not know! But what I did know, was that I wouldn’t be going anywhere so long as they kept putting handcuffs and chains on me.

I was doing an endless amount of waiting. You’d think I would be used to time passing with nothing happening, but I was not. I was a man of action. If things weren’t happening, then I made it happen. And yet here on Arus, inside the castle, there was little I could do. At least in the moment. And still I seethed, impotent rage filling me. I was so angry, and over so many things. My friends and allies were dead, my father had abandoned me. I had no one to rely on, no one to save me from a marriage to Allura. It was all up to me to get away, and I was losing hope of that with every passing minute.

Just when I thought I could not sink any lower into despair, a knock sounded on the door. I straightened, actually tensing as the door opened. I was not expecting who walked in through that door. “Alfor!”

Allura’s father gave me a cool, assessing look. There were guards peering into the room from behind him, clearly nervous about their king being so close to a dangerous Drule. “Prince Lotor…” Alfor began, then closed the door in the guards’ faces. I could hear their protests, muffled though they were. Alfor ignored them, and walked closer to me, completely unafraid. That lack of fear in him annoyed me, my teeth grinding together as I fought to keep from making a biting remark.

“Was that really necessary?” Alfor asked me. I just stared at him unblinking. “Killing one of my men gains you nothing. If anything, it takes away more of your freedoms.”

“What freedoms?” I demand, holding up my handcuffed hands. “I’m still restrained. Only now I have a tracking device forced into me!”

“You wouldn’t be chained if you hadn’t attacked the guards, and killed one of them!” Alfor pointed out.

I lifted an eyebrow at that. “Oh? Really? You’d let me walk around free? Or would you have returned me to the dungeons?”

“There will be no more dungeon stays for you…” I made a scoffing sound in response. “Provided…you behave yourself.” Alfor clarified, ignoring the sounds I made.

“And just what does behaving myself mean?” I demanded. “Marrying your daughter? Being a good husband to her, and a father to her child?”

“Yes.” It was a simple answer, but one Alfor took seriously. “You will try to make them happy.” I laughed then, the sound mocking. Alfor didn’t so much as twitch in anger, though the look in his eyes darkened. “This is no laughing matter.” He said. I knew that, but the thought of Allura and I being able to be happy together was so ridiculous I had to laugh. “You have gotten both yourself and my daughter into this mess. You will fix it.”

“You ask for the impossible!” I exclaim. “You have picked the most sure fire way to ensure misery for the both of us. You honestly believe Allura can be happy with me? After all I’ve done…” I shook my head. “You’re a fool.”

“I am practical.” Alfor retorted. “I act to mend my daughter’s dishonor. But more than that I want to secure her happiness.” Again I argued that neither Allura nor myself could be happy together in a loveless marriage. Alfor’s response took me by surprise, the man showing his ruthless disregard where I was concerned. “I don’t give one whit about your own happiness, Lotor. Only my daughter’s matters.”

“And just how am I supposed to pull off this miracle of making her happy when I don’t even like her?” I demand. I was unsettled by the look Alfor gave me, the Arusian not quite smirking.

“You’ve already proven what a good actor you can be.”

“You want me to pretend for her?” I was stunned. “To lie…”

“I want you to do whatever is necessary to keep her happy. You don’t have to lie that you love her. I will not have my daughter insulted in that way. But you can act like you accept the repercussions of your actions, that you understand this marriage is a necessity. The rest will follow. It won’t be a lie to say you will dedicate yourself to Allura and her child, because that is exactly what you will be doing.”

I glared at him. “Making Allura happy is the furthest thing from my agenda.”

“Yes, I realize that.” Alfor grumbled. “You want Arus…probably wanted it to be the first in what I’m sure you thought would be a glorious campaign of conquests. But you’ll have to put your ambitions aside to play the happy home maker with my daughter.”

“I will not! I don’t accept this as my fate!” I roared. Alfor did not back away, instead advancing on me with a menacing look.

“What is there that you do not understand?” He demanded. “Your father has turned his back on you. He would rather have this marriage than enter into a war with Arus. Your own allies are dead, or on the run. If you somehow manage to escape, you have no home to return to. Marrying Allura is the only option left to you, the one who won’t have you spend the rest of your life in chains, in one of Arus’ prisons!”

“So I exchanged one set of chains for another?” I ask. “Trapped with a woman I don’t care for, a child I do not want?”

“It’s your own fault that Allura ended up with your child!” snapped Alfor. “Damn fool that you are, you didn’t even take precautions against making one. Are you always this stupid, or did you want to hurt my daughter even more?”

I felt angry but embarrassed as I muttered out an answer. “I’ve always left the problem of child prevention to the women.”

“I’m surprised you don’t have a string of bastards spread out across the galaxy given your reputation and how often you switch partners.” Grumbled Alfor in disapproval. “But that ends now. There will be no more women, no more partying. You will be faithful to the family you’ve been given.”

“You can’t make me uphold vows I was forced to take!”

“I can do a lot worse to you than what you’ve already suffered this past week.” Alfor was calm, a cool, deadly menace. “And I will not hesitate to uphold my threats if you hurt my daughter in that way.”

I tried not to shiver, remembering how earlier he had threatened to castrate me. But I didn’t want to appear cowed by his words. “And you think my father will allow you to mutilate me as you see fit? I am still the only heir to the Doom Empire!”

“Not for much longer.”

My eyes widened, and then I cursed, realizing what had eluded me before. Allura was pregnant, carrying my child. That child, be it a boy or a girl, would become part of the succession line. It would be years before the child would come of age to rule, but with my father’s strong health, it would be years before he was ready to step down from his throne. With Allura pregnant with my baby, I could actually be removed from the succession, skipped over in favor of the younger blood.

“You think you’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?” I said bitterly. To my relief, Alfor did not smile, just nodding with a grave look in his eyes.

“Believe me when I say your father and I have gone over all the angles. We’ve resolved anything that could hold the potential to cause a problem.”

“You haven’t resolved me!” I retorted. “You may think you got me right where you want me, but you’ll soon learn how dangerous it is to trap a Drule.”

A sardonic look flashed across his face. “I’m already aware of how dangerous YOU can be, Lotor. That dead guard is a testament to that.”

“There will be more.” I warned. “If they get in my way….”

“You will not continue to kill any time you feel like it.” Alfor interrupted.

“How will you stop me?” I demanded.

“That device implanted in your arm.” Alfor replied. “It’s not only a tracking device, it’s a monitor.”

“Monitor?” I repeat, not comprehending what he was getting at.

“Yes. We will soon have people on stand by, doiing around the clock monitoring of the signal output of the device. It will track your heart beat, and blood pressure among other things. If they elevate high enough, expressing you are agitated, all it will take is a flip of a switch and you will be subdued.”

“Subdued how?” I asked, wary and uneasy.

“A few hundred volts of electrical currents, triggered by the device within you.” Alfor explained. “Enough to shock you, but not kill you. Enough to get you under control and keep further deaths from occurring.”

I stared at him horrified, wanting to claw open my skin in an attempt to dig out the device. But would I even get a chance to do that without triggering the device inside me? Did I even want to risk it?

“Damn you!” I said out loud, my hands curling into fists. “This doesn’t tame me! Not by a long shot!”

“But it’s a step in that direction.” Alfor answered. It made me want to punch him, my body tensing in anticipation of the blow. But I didn’t want to experience the electrical shock this fast, leaving me to hold back and try to calm my breathing.

“Does my father know about this?” I ask at last. I tried to keep from snarling when Alfor nodded a yes. Was there anything Zarkon would not allow, no indignity too great so long as it prevented Doom from warring with Arus? How much more could I take, before I snapped completely?

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