tagNonConsent/ReluctanceThe Rebellious Slave Ch. 25

The Rebellious Slave Ch. 25


In the eerie silence of the early morning, Lord Arlington headed down Bremmington's Interrogation Block, each step bringing him closer to the point of no return. It seemed like ages had passed before he finally reached Room #17 and yet, he wasn't ready for the gruesome task before him. For a good minute or two, he paused, his hand hovering inches from the door knob. It wasn't too late to turn back. Even here, at the very end, Arlington could walk away. In his mind's eye, the young lord pictured himself heading back up the stairway, then disappearing into the bright yellow dawn, but the fantasy was in poor taste. Maybe Arlington could turn back, but he'd made up his mind ages ago and wasn't about to abandon all of his careful plans. With a deep breath, he rested his hand on the doorknob, turned it, and stepped inside the interrogation room.

Marko was waiting for him, sitting before a small metal table with his hands cuffed in front of him and his head bowed dejectedly. His wavy, almond brown hair looked a little thin and his dark eyes looked a little darker, but it was the absence of his cocky smile that disturbed Arlington the most. Clearly, the past several weeks of captivity had taken their toll. From what Arlington had gathered, Marko had been in tip-top shape immediately prior to his arrest. After graduating from the Crimson Dragons, the young assassin had moved to the private sector, conducting surveillance for clients and sometimes completing contract kills for the government. Arlington, meanwhile, had swiftly risen to power and the two of them had eventually lost touch. It had been years since they'd occupied the same space, but the time they'd spent together had molded them in unshakeable ways and the minute he saw Arlington, Marko's features brightened.

"Oh, thank god you are here!" Marko cried, standing to his feet with a sudden surge of hope and, just maybe, a little bit of desperation. "I'd hug you, brother, but you know...the cuffs." With an embarrassed smile, Marko held up his bound wrists, as if pleading for them to be removed. But Arlington said nothing and Marko frowned, confused. "The cuffs, David? Are these really necessary, considering—"

"It's Lord Arlington now," Arlington whispered, his voice laced with just the tiniest hint of threat. But the words hit their mark and immediately, Marko's mood changed. Suspiciously, he glanced at Arlington, then at his entourage of guards, trying to figure out what was happening, but could only stand there stupidly. "You haven't forgotten, have you, brother?"

"No, my lord, of course not," Marko insisted, his face dropping ever more precariously under Arlington's gaze. "I meant no disrespect...it's just that you and I have always been really close. You and I are brothers by trade and we've always looked out for each other, haven't we?"

"Have we?" Arlington grinned and he sat down casually across from Marko. "Brother?"

"I've been framed for treason, my lord, but I swear, it wasn't I who assassinated Senator Bix!" Marko cried, finally losing it and reaching across the table for the lapels of Arlington's shirt, but a body guard smacked his hands away. "Please, you have to believe me!"

"I don't see why I should; the evidence against you is very convincing."

"I know that, David!" Marko cried, standing to his feet and banging violently on the table. "I know that!"

"Then why should I bother to save you?"

"Because we're brothers!" Marko screamed, half mad with fear. "I'm about to be executed and you're just going to stand there, arguing titles, as if nothing's the matter!" Taking a few panicked, deep breaths Marko tried to calm down, but began pacing fretfully instead. "Whoever's done this must be a professional, my lord...another assassin, most likely. All the signs are there! Someone high up in the ranks, who has the access necessary to plant evidence and then—" Suddenly, Marko froze in place and Arlington watched as all the dots finally connected, creating a picture that nearly paralyzed Marko with horror. "David, did you...?"

"Think very carefully before you finish that sentence," Arlington warned, lifting an eyebrow condescendingly. "I don't take false accusations lightly."

"But...but why would you do this to me? What have I ever done to you?"

"Nothing, brother, this isn't about us. It's about Senator Bix and you know it."

"Oh my god," Marko gasped, the very last piece of the puzzle fitting snugly into place. "Is this...is this about that girl?" There was disbelief in his voice, but it was tinged with just enough certainty to make Arlington's guards and even the prison stenographer look questioningly toward him.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lord Arlington grinned, but he made sure to do so just a little too widely and watched as Marko's eyes lit up, first in understanding, then fury. "You're babbling, but I suppose that's understandable, given the circumstances."

"Get them out of here," Marko whispered darkly, nodding in turn to Arlington's bodyguards, the prison stenographer, and even his own lawyer. "Get them all out of here."

Arlington hadn't been expecting that, but didn't see why he shouldn't oblige. The two of them had never openly talked about 'the incident.' For years, it had remained an invisible stain on their continued friendship, always present, but never acknowledged. Marko had probably kept quiet for Arlington's sake, so as not to impede his rise to power. Arlington had stayed silent as a sort of psychological safety mechanism, hoping to forget the past. But the memories didn't go away and soon, he was keeping silent simply to lure Marko into a false sense of security. Now, the gloves were off, the curtain had fallen, the trumpets had blared and with a curt nod, Arlington gestured for his personnel to leave the room. At first, they seemed reluctant to obey, but fled more earnestly when his lordship's expression soured and with an ominous bang, the door shut behind them.

"Plead your case," Arlington said simply, leaning back in his chair.

"Plead my case!" Marko cried, his eyes turning crimson with rage and his voice hoarse with something that resembled hurt, but was much darker. "If it weren't for me, you'd be nothing but a long forgotten traitor in an unmarked grave!"

"Probably," Arlington admitted with a sympathetic shrug. "Most likely, yes."

"What do you mean, most likely?!?" Marko screamed, but Arlington merely shrugged again and his silence only served to fuel Marko's rage. "Goddamn it, David, how are you not getting this? Yours would have been an ugly death. They would have made an example of you first. They would have made you beg for it, before they pulled the trigger."

"If that's the best you can do, I can end this meeting now."

"Everything I did, I did for you! Without me, there'd be no 'Lord Arlington.' You owe everything you have—your fancy title, your wealth, your power—to the sacrifices I made on your behalf!"

"You're not telling me anything that I don't already know," Lord Arlington sighed and with a sad smile, he stood up and turned toward the door, intending to let the prison personnel back in. "After all this time, Marko, I really did think you'd have something more worthwhile to say."

"Maybe I pulled the trigger," Marko admitted, his voice calm and controlled for the first time. "But you put the bullet in the chamber."

Immediately, Arlington stiffened, his fingers just brushing the doorknob. The guilt didn't come in waves this time, as it often did, but it seeped in slowly, like a poison in his veins, gradually spreading throughout his being. Then the memories started to come back, in eerie clarity, forming a mismatched collage of images that made Arlington nauseous...

There was Arilyn, in her favorite black tank top and shorts, waiting for him beside the river and lying on a checkered picnic blanket. She hadn't spotted him yet and for a few brief, but glorious moments, Arlington was able to stand on the bank, just watching her hair dance in the wind.

Then there was blood against concrete...so much blood...seemingly everywhere. It was on Arlington's hands, then in his hair. He could literally taste it in the air.

Redness gave way to a shimmering gold and suddenly, Arlington remembered the way Arilyn's hair had fallen across her shoulders, on the first night they'd made love. It had been arranged so perfectly, he would have sworn it was intentional.

Then, there were torches lining the walls, making eerie shadows, and Arlington could feel the cool leather of a whip in his hand, which was still trembling.

Arilyn, calling him a 'nerd' for having so many books in his dorm room.

Screams, but he didn't really know if they were his or hers...

"You know, you could have stopped everything, before it even began," Marko continued, returning Arlington back to the present, where the fluorescent lighting made everything gray and the drafty room made everything cold. "But you didn't."

"Is there a point to this?" Arlington hissed, though he couldn't bear to turn around and face Marko's accusatory eyes. "Well?"

"God, David, you so badly want to blame me for your girlfriend's untimely end, but you had every opportunity to save her and you didn't," Marko replied, this time sounding more sympathetic than he did angry. "Why didn't you report her to Remediation Services when she first started slipping?"

Arlington didn't have a good answer to that question, though he'd asked it of himself thousands of times. Maybe if Arilyn's disloyalty had been more subtle, he could have feigned ignorance and been able to sleep a little better at night, but she hadn't had the capacity for subtlety. Arlington could still remember all the details of that night, when he'd first lost control of his apprentice. They'd moved into the same dorm months earlier and he'd returned home late one night, only to walk into the kitchen and see that the stove was on. All the cabinets had been emptied and there were knives laid out with utmost care upon the counter top. Then, he could smell it...the scent of burning human flesh. Arlington could remember racing through the tiny apartment, looking for Arilyn, and finding that the bathroom door had been locked from the inside and barricaded. It had taken him a full ten minutes to break his way in and when he'd found Arilyn, she'd been standing before the mirror, burning away the tattoo on her back with a red, hot blade...

"Oh my god, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Arlington screamed, wrestling the knife away from Arilyn and dragging her out into the hallway. She struggled something awful, cursing and biting the entire time, but Arlington finally managed to pin her to the floor. "Arilyn, do you realize what you've done?"

At first, Arilyn didn't say anything. When Arlington finally let her up, she just sat there in a trance, letting him gently examine her back. There were a number of ugly burns there, destroying the crimson dragon Arilyn was supposed to be wearing proudly. There would certainly be scarring and possibly an infection, but Arlington was most worried about the Crimson Dragons themselves. Defacing one's tattoo was a sign of disloyalty and a student assassin only got three strikes before being 'terminated.' There was no way to leave the guild alive after initiation week and this sort of behavior could get Arilyn killed. Arlington felt himself begin to panic and his mind started racing, as he desperately tried to figure out how he was going to explain this to his superiors.

"God, David, you have to help me! I...I just can't do this!" Arilyn finally screamed and soon after, she was grabbing onto Arlington's cloak and looking up at him with her intense, green eyes. "It's not fair!"

"What are you talking about, Arilyn? The hell is wrong with you?"

"They recruit you when you're too young to know the difference between right and wrong and when you finally figure it out, they tell you you're in too deep to walk out!" Arilyn cried, shaking Arlington furiously and starting to sob. "It's not fair!"

"Oh god," Arlington groaned, and he could feel his heart turn cold beneath his breast. Arilyn had been acting weird ever since their first mission, but he hadn't thought it would come to this. Trembling, he brought Arilyn close to him and started stroking her long, blonde hair, just as much to calm his own nerves as to calm hers. "Look, love, it's okay...." Arlington reasoned, seeing now that there was only one way to handle this. "It's not at all unusual for an apprentice to have second thoughts after their first mission. I'll just call up Remediation Services."

"What?!?" Arilyn cried and she pushed Arlington away before he could stop her, making sure to get as much distance between them as was humanly possible. "You mean you intend to hand me over to their brainwashing specialists?"

"Brainwashing is a strong word...I had to go through it after my first mission, on Master Greyson's recommendation."

"So that's it then?" Arilyn sneered, crossing her arms over her chest and looking the very picture of defiance in all its beautiful, brilliant glory. "I'm just having a psychological breakdown and you're going to go 'fix' me?"

"Clearly, you need some help, Arilyn."

"I need help, David! You don't think that, maybe, I'm thinking rationally for the first time since I signed up with the dragons? One thought out of line and suddenly, I need help?"

"Goddamn it, Arilyn!" Arlington growled, stepping briskly across the room and blocking Arilyn's path, even as she tried to move out of the way. "I'm trying to help you, before you do something stupid!"

"I keep forgetting that you're one of them," Arilyn whispered, her voice dark for the first time ever, though not the last. "I keep forgetting that you're no different, not really."

"That's not true."

"Then prove it!" Arilyn declared, taking Arlington's hands in her own and looking at him with softness in her eyes. "Run away with me, David, and help me leave this godforsaken place!"

"Are you mad?" Arlington hissed, thrusting Arilyn's hands away, as if her thoughts were contagious. "We wouldn't make it ten miles! Don't even think those sorts of things, let alone say them out loud!" Heading for the phone, Arlington started to dial, intent on contacting Remediation Services before things got too far out of hand, but Arilyn's soft, sultry voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Please..." Arilyn pleaded and Arlington could feel a gentle tugging on his pants leg. When he looked down, he saw that Arilyn was on her knees, her hands clasped in her lap, begging him. "Please, sir...don't do this to me...I've heard what's it like..."

"What else am I supposed to do, Arilyn?"

"I'll complete remediation with you," Arilyn promised, her tear filled eyes so sincere and innocent. "I won't hold anything back, I swear..."

What else could he have done? With Arilyn's pleading eyes looking up into his, how could he have said 'no'? Arilyn was right. Remediation was an extremely painful process, both psychologically and physically. He'd wanted to spare her...convinced himself that it was the 'right' thing to do, even if it wasn't the 'smart' thing to do. But Arilyn had lied to him. She'd played him like a harp and he'd fallen for it.

Arlington knew that now and he should have known it then.

"I thought I could handle her myself," Arlington told Marko, somewhat defensively, although he wasn't sure why he was bothering to explain himself. "I was young and foolish."

"Young and foolish?" Marko snorted, rolling his eyes just in time for Arlington to turn around and catch him in the act. "That might be a legitimate excuse for your first failure, but Master Greyson gave you a second chance to reign her in and you didn't take advantage of that either."

"Do you have any idea what that was like?" Arlington cried, running his hands through his hair in exasperation and pacing the floor before Marko. "I was having nightmares regularly, hearing her screaming in my dreams!"

"No one said it was going to be easy, but if you'd really loved her, you would have manned up. Arilyn was your apprentice and it was your job to get her under control, whether you liked it or not."

"And yet you felt compelled to interfere?"

"What was I supposed to do, sit back and watch that little cunt ruin you? Let her drag you into the bowels of hell, all because she waited until sophomore year to grow a fucking conscience?"

"I tried, alright? I poured my entire being into saving her from herself, but the way she looked at me...Marko, she started to hate me, I could see it in her eyes."

"Boo-hoo, my lord, cry me a fucking river. Like it or not, sometimes we have to hurt the people we love," Marko sighed, sounding more than a little judgemental. "You don't think Master Leton broke my bones a few times on the mats? But I never forgot a mistake that landed me in the infirmary."

"It's not the same thing."

"Yes, it is," Marko insisted, his tone unwavering. "Those lessons saved my ass numerous times in the field. Sometimes, you have to hurt the people you love and sure, at the time, they'll hate you for it....but when they grow the fuck up, they'll understand what you did for them and they'll be grateful."

"Maybe, if you had given me more time, I could have figured that out on my own."

"Doubtful, with that devilish little succubus whispering in your ear, tempting you to throw everything away. Admit it, when I finally stepped in, you couldn't have walked away if your life had depended on it...and it had, David."

"Enough!" Arlington screamed, turning with blood red eyes toward Marko, his heart pounding so loudly he could hardly hear his own voice. "Regardless of my faults, it's time you paid for your sins and trust me, you will. You'll pay dearly, brother!"

"Fine," Marko spat and Arlington stiffened. He hadn't been expecting that reaction from Marko, who was usually such a fighter, never one to give up prematurely. "Go ahead and kill me, but you'll regret it. If you keep burning these bridges, you're going to wake up one day and you're going to be all alone."

"I'm the Fourth Lord of Isleydor," Arlington laughed, though it was a dark, humorless laugh.

"Then god help Isleydor," Marko replied coldly, his tone deathly serious. "You couldn't even control your own apprentice and now, you honestly think you can rule a nation? You're a coward and you'll always be a coward. A man like you doesn't have the ambition to accomplish anything great."

"Is that so?" Arlington grinned, the pain in his chest like a dagger, twisting and turning in his gut. "I was actually thinking of expanding our borders someday, making a name for myself in the history books, but first things first..." Opening the cell door, Arlington motioned for the prison guards to enter, then stepped aside so as to let them in. "You're right about one thing, Marko. I was a coward. I let my feelings get in the way of my convictions, but I'm turning over a new leaf, starting with you."

"David, I'm telling you, don't do this."

"I'm sorry, but I've made up my mind, Marko," Arlington apologized, with a sympathetic frown. "I loved you like a brother, I really did, but I'm done letting my emotions rule me...retribution, on the other hand, that's a different story." With a nod toward the nearest guard, Arlington headed for the doorway, then turned back at the threshold. "Take the traitor out back and shoot him."

"One day, you'll get what you deserve!" Marko screamed, his tortured voice piercing through Arlington's soul and making him sick to his stomach. "One day, Arlington, you'll meet your match and you'll pay for what you've done!"

With a clang, the cell door slammed shut, locking Marko behind it and in the ensuing silence, Arlington was only able to stand trembling in the hallway. Images of himself and Marko flashed through his mind: long afternoons spent in the weight room, late nights picking up women at the bar, racing motorcycles through campus and then getting chastised for it. For a few brief seconds, Arlington seriously considered wrenching open the door and recanting his orders, but reminded himself to stay strong. At the objections of his guards, he took off down the hall instead, finally making it to the restroom and locking himself inside. He barely made it to the sink before vomiting into the basin, his forehead breaking out in a cold, nervous sweat.

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