Arjan, one of Darion’s primary assistants, put a second platter of freshly baked bread on the table with various meats and cheeses. Then he poured two glasses of red wine from the Korsha region of Vaironia, celebrated throughout the planet for its stellar vineyards.
“Sir Shilal, would you like anything else?” Arjan asked Makdan Shilal, Darion’s best friend since childhood.
“No, thank you,” Makdan responded.
“Do you desire anything else, Sir Navarr?” Arjan asked. Darion shook his head.
Arjan bowed, stealing one of many glances at Makdan.
People often admired the Vaironian composer’s muscular physique, auburn hair and finely crafted facial features. Concerts at the Kyri Appiah Center for the Performing Arts, named after Makdan’s maternal great-grandmother, were highly anticipated, as Makdan had his pieces presented there. Serving also as the orchestra’s conductor, he enticed quite a few individuals to attend. Some of them would initially come just to see the attractive composer and conductor but they would return, mesmerized by his talent.
“You have to understand, there are certain lines,” Makdan said, continuing his conversation with Darion. “Even as difficult as they are to see, you just don’t cross them.”
For the past hour, Makdan had been trying to dissuade Darion from going through with what he thought was a supremely foolish decision. A successful official who was likely to rise even further just did not expose himself to a walking catastrophe like Tolrek Marou. Yet, Darion was persistent in his desires. Furrows of frustration marked Makdan’s forehead, his gray eyes showing his annoyance. As well as he knew Darion’s level of stubbornness, Makdan still tried to be as patient as possible.
“If the lines are practically invisible, then they need not exist,” Darion countered. “Don’t you agree?”
“You know how eager many are to be your pet! What you’ve done hardly makes sense.”
“You’re beginning to overstep your bounds,” Darion said, coldly, his eyes going a darker shade. It was a clear indication that he was becoming irritated.
Makdan looked taken aback by the reaction to worthwhile advice. What was it about this matter that had his friend so unusually insistent? Makdan selected some bread and cheese from the ornate serving tray. Chewing slowly on the morsels, he reflected on what he should say next.
“Darion, you’ll get yourself in trouble. Is this really that important?”
“Of course it is. Now, Tolrek will be arriving in about one hour. Would you like to see him?”
“No, I’ll leave you to your stupidity,” Makdan said. Darion laughed.
“Come now, don’t be angry…Look, I’m an adult. Mak, I can take care of myself.”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
“You know I can. Remember the many scrapes we had in our youth? Who was usually the one to save your skin?”
“You should have been saving my skin,” Makdan responded dryly. “I was often endangered because of you. It’s a wonder either of us made it to 30.”
“Well, what’s life without some hair-raising adventures? Admit it; you enjoyed yourself with me and you still do.”
“That’s all very true but even I have my limits. I would never take a person like Tolrek for a Pet.”
“I appreciate your concern but things are under control.”
“Well, since you won’t change your mind, I hope he inflicts a ridiculous amount of damage on you,” Makdan said, rising to go. “I can’t imagine how angry he still is about his situation.”
“Now Mak, don’t try to ruin my fantasies about my little rebel…” Darion chided playfully.
“I’ll see you soon. Make sure you attend the concert next week, if you’re comfortable being seen in public after he mauls you. I look forward to counting the scars he leaves on your face—and the bald spots left by chunks of hair he takes out.”
“Will that be our form of foreplay?” Darion smiled salaciously at his friend, who cursed under his breath.
“You’re impossible,” Makdan muttered, standing to leaving.
“Things will be just fine,” Darion assured him, as he walked him to the door.
Standing in the middle of the foyer of Darion’s home, Tolrek was rubbing his arms to make them comfortable after having the cuffs removed. The towering guardian androids were by him, prepared to restrain him under Fei’s direction, should it be necessary. Ignoring them, Tolrek surveyed Arjan and Halsam who remained at a distance they believed was safe, staring at him with curiosity.
“Where’s Darion?” Tolrek demanded. “I want to talk to him about this damn collar he had the guards put on me. It contains a tracking device doesn’t it? I’m not an animal.”
“First of all, he is to be addressed as Master or Sir Darion,” Tolrek heard.
He looked around, searching for the owner of the voice. One of Fei’s forms, a woman clad in the severe black uniform of a VSB official, appeared in front of him.
“Secondly, Darion will see you when it fits into his schedule,” Fei continued. “For the time being, you are to wait.”
“This is hardly the treatment I expected. Pets are supposed to be pampered,” Tolrek quipped, sitting cross-legged on the marble floor. “So much for that.”
“Well, you’re not the typical Pet are you?” Fei teased, laughing softly. “Besides, you’re a Krezka Pilot. You’re not supposed to act like such a wimp.”
Tolrek looked at Fei, deciding that he was not liking this thing.
Meanwhile, Darion was in his study, speaking with Ormon.
“Thank you for such a prompt and discreet delivery,” Darion told him.
“I am glad you are pleased,” the warden responded.
The two chatted for only a few minutes; Darion was aware that the warden was eager to be on his way. Darion stifled a smile, believing that Ormon was quite pleased to be rid of a troublesome prisoner like Tolrek. When the conversation ended, Ormon hurried away. Never before had the official been so glad to distance himself from a situation. Tolrek, even during the short time he had been under Ormon’s command, had been quite difficult. Now, thankfully, Tolrek was someone else’s problem and, hopefully, would never again be Ormon’s.
After seeing the warden out, Darion turned his attention to his new mission, handling Tolrek.
“Again with the staring,” Tolrek muttered, standing up to face Darion. “It’s as if you didn’t do enough of that during the negotiations.”
“I see that Fei hasn’t had cause to punish you yet.”
“I can at any time,” Fei offered. “Even if he hasn’t done anything, I’ll use him to sharpen my skills. How about—”
“Not right now Fei,” Darion lightly admonished. “I’m sure Tolrek will provide more than enough opportunities. He’s quiet at the present but it won’t last.”
Tolrek did not make a remark. His eyes merely traced the geometric figures on the floor, as if doing that was the reason he was in Darion’s home. He was pondering, considering the new dynamics in his life.
“Well then, I suppose I should have everyone do introductions,” Darion began. “Arjan and Halsam, come closer. Tolrek has had his shots.”
Tolrek glared up at Darion but remained silent.
Arjan and Halsam walked forward, stopping a short distance from Darion.
“I am Arjan Benor,” Arjan announced, still viewing Tolrek warily. “I‘m Darion’s chef.”
Tolrek studied the young man, noting that he seemed to pride himself on having a clean-cut appearance. His black hair and beard were neatly trimmed. His crisp, white hat and apron didn’t have a speck of debris on them. Even his green eyes had a certain clarity to them. From Arjan’s demeanor, Tolrek speculated that he wasn’t merely a chef. At a fit 6 feet and 2 inches, the rebel determined that it could prove challenging to get past Arjan, should it be necessary.
Tolrek’s gaze moved on to the second servant, who hardly seemed like he’d be an obstacle at all.
“I am Halsam Odeen,” Halsam murmured, avoiding Tolrek’s eyes. “I will be your personal attendant.”
Observing that Halsam was a lightweight 5 feet, 8 inches tall, Tolrek didn’t consider him to be a threat. It was clear the servant was insecure. With his brown hair cropped quite short, his face was exposed, his hazel eyes revealing an innocent and somewhat bewildered expression. Tolrek surmised that this attendant would soon be under his thumb.
“I am Fei, Darion’s enforcer,” the supercomputer commented. “If I need to, I dispose of any garbage bothering Darion. Please keep me entertained.”
“Fei,” Darion warned. “He’s not to become your toy.”
“What fun is that?” Fei joked, her form disappearing.
“Now, let’s get down to the next order of business, giving you a bath,” Darion stated. “Halsam will see to that.”
Halsam, feeling quite unsure of himself, led a deceptively docile Tolrek to the bath hall. Halsam wanted so much to ask Darion to accompany them but decided against it. After all, it was Darion’s household and if Halsam was told to get Tolrek cleaned, then he would do it. By the time the rebel and his attendant reached the bathing area, steaming water was already awaiting them, Fei having initiated the process of filling the massive tub.
Tolrek surveyed the area, impressed with his surrounding, despite his attempts to feel otherwise. A sauna room that would hold up to six individuals was located at the left corner opposite the door. Two marble benches were on either side of the bathing area.
The walls of the bath hall were mirrored panels. Tolrek found it interesting and strange that none of these panels had condensation on them, despite the obvious steaming water in the room. He made a note to find out why later.
The rebel’s eyes next moved to the hall’s central feature, a massive circular tub that was seven feet in diameter and five feet deep.
“It’s a nice, relaxing place, isn’t it?” Halsam asked haltingly.
The servant gave the rebel a shy smile, which soon disappeared. His attempt at making small talk was rebuffed, as Tolrek returned a derisive glance.
“Let’s just do this,” Tolrek grumbled.
Halsam nodded, still wishing that Darion had come with him. He began taking off his clothing, folding them neatly and placing them on a nearby bench. Halsam then moved towards Tolrek.
Tolrek scanned Halsam’s body, then rolled his eyes. The situation might have been bearable, if Tolrek found the servant the least bit appealing. As it were, Halsam had a slight build and Tolrek believed he was in clear need of some robust training. Had the servant been under his command in the military, Tolrek would have broken him and then rebuilt him into someone he thought was worthy of a lustful a gaze.
“If you think you’re going to touch me, you must be out of your mind,” Tolrek growled, when Halsam reached to begin undoing his garments.
“But Darion told me to—”
“I don’t care what the hell Darion said.”
Tolrek went to a shelf and picked up one of the thick towels. Halsam’s eyes followed him as he dipped the towel into the water, then twisted it. Dampened towel in hand, he flicked it viciously at the servant who quickly backed up several paces.
“Let me give you a bath,” Halsam pleaded. “If you don’t, Darion won’t like this.”
Tolrek’s response was to send the towel slamming against Halsam’s exposed chest, causing a wide welt to form.
“Of course, I understand how entirely immature this act is,” Tolrek told him. “However, you have no ability to stop me. So, it wouldn’t be proper for me to use more aggressive tactics to get you to leave me the hell alone. After all, I just might kill you.”
“I’d rather not bother you. I do have a task though and—”
Tolrek snapped the towel again, sending a wickedly precise smack across the servant’s mouth, silencing Halsam. Tears sprang to his eyes, since he had bitten his tongue in surprise.
As his servant was being humiliated, Darion was discussing with Arjan the menu for the upcoming week.
“Darion, I have to interrupt you for a moment,” Fei cut in. “I thought you’d like to know that, right now, Halsam is getting towel-whipped by your Pet. Should I regulate?”
“No, I’ll personally see to it,” Darion said. “Arjan, I think what you have planned is just fine. Fei will order whatever you need.”
The chef nodded and Darion left to tend to the urgent matter.
“I’m not surprised Tolrek’s already causing trouble,” Darion commented as he walked to the bath hall.
“Well, it’s relatively minor considering what he can do,” Fei remarked.
“Let’s hope it stays that way.”
“Oh come on, you don’t really feel like that. You know you want him to get more out of hand. You want to rough him up, show him who’s in charge, bend him over and—”
“Shut up, Fei,” Darion grumbled.
Ever since she had learned of his attraction to Tolrek, his computer had teased him. Once the plan to acquire Tolrek as a Pet was firmly in place, it had become regular fodder for his technological joker. Rarely a day went by when some off-color remark wasn’t made about what Darion wanted to do with and to Tolrek. Even more annoying was how correct Fei was about Darion’s feelings. Sometimes, she truly did know him too well for comfort.
Arriving at the bath hall, Darion was in time to see Tolrek land a heavy strike on Halsam’s head. The servant was ineffectively shielding his face with his arms, his eyes tightly shut, unaware that the Master of the House had appeared.
“At least run away, you idiot,” Fei told Halsam. She chortled, opting to enjoy the action.
“I already tried that,” Halsam shouted, his voice trembling. “Please make him stop! I fell and really hurt myself.” A large bruise was already developing on Halsam left buttock, where he’d landed as he’d made a failed attempt to get away from Tolrek.
Tolrek laughed loudly, the sound merging with that of Fei’s amusement.
Another hit was on its way when Tolrek felt a hand clamp down on his right shoulder. He turned to see Darion staring at him.
“Ah, my esteemed warden,” Tolrek mocked. He grimaced internally when his shoulder throbbed. “I am pleased you graced me with your presence once again.”
“Halsam, why are you wasting time?” Darion demanded, ignoring Tolrek for the moment.
“I am sorry Sir. I just…” Halsam’s voice trailed off. His body clearly showing the welts from his embarrassing ordeal, he looked helplessly at Darion. Darion sighed, then turned his full attention to Tolrek, who was smiling slightly.
“You need to get the prison grime off you,” Darion told him. “Go into the bath.”
“No,” Tolrek said, planting his feet firmly.
Darion’s next move, which Tolrek was unable to avoid, happened quickly. Darion picked him up and hurled him into the water. The hot, soapy liquid swallowed up Tolrek, getting into his mouth and nose. Darion laughed loudly as Tolrek came to the surface, sputtering and glaring. The rebel seemed to have fallen quite far, already.
“Halsam will take things from here,” Darion said, as Halsam got into the bath,
eyeing Tolrek with apprehension. “I insist that you cleanse yourself of any and all filth, Tolrek.”
“Get off me you damn lapdog; I can handle things myself,” Tolrek said, smacking away Halsam’s hands.
“No. You must let him bathe you,” Darion ordered. “It is his duty to see to your needs. You will get used to his hands on you.”
“I don’t care about—”
“Either he scrubs you or I come in there. If I have to, you will lose layers of skin.”
Tolrek stared at Darion, considering what to do. Darion had already proven that he was strong enough to throw him with little or no effort. Tolrek decided not to put up a further fight, for the moment. Besides, he reasoned, there would be many other opportunities to torment Darion and his household. If Darion thought he was going to be the epitome of docile from this point on, even after being hurled like a sack of garbage, the negotiator was sorely mistaken.
Halsam moved closer to Tolrek and then tentatively began to wash his upper body, not yet brave enough to venture lower. Darion watched for a few minutes, making sure that his newly acquired Pet would behave. He smiled at the scene. Tolrek’s silver hair was in soapy clumps, making him appear disarming and innocent.
Overall, the bathing went smoothly, except for Tolrek’s occasional taunting of Halsam, who did his best not to flee.
When he was thoroughly cleaned and his skin nourished with mildly-scented lotion, Tolrek was taken to his room where clothes were already waiting for him. He dressed in the dark blue linen shirt and pants. A short while later, a robot carrying a tray of food arrived, setting out the meal for him. As hungry as he was, Tolrek hesitated.
“It’s not poisoned or drugged,” Fei assured him. “Darion doesn’t need to do any of that to control you.”
With plans circling in his head to disable Darion’s computer, Tolrek began to eat the thick, marinated barbecued beef, steamed rice and grilled vegetables. Though the meal was simple, it was clear that Arjan was quite skilled at preparing food.
Tolrek had just finished his meal when the door to his quarters opened. Darion entered and Tolrek stood.
“Come with me,” Darion instructed. “There’s something that I need to show you.”
“What is it?” Tolrek asked, following him. “You have the remains of your other Pets there? Will this be some kind of scare tactic? Well, I’m not going to be bothered by it.”
“Stop here,” Darion ordered.
Their short walk ended at the room across the hall from Tolrek’s. He shrugged and stepped in front of Darion, as if he had no concerns about what he would see.
“Should I find it necessary to punish you, I will bring you here,” Darion told him.
The metal door, which was 2 inches thick, slid to the left at Darion’s command.
Instinctively, upon seeing what was in the room, Tolrek stepped back, bumping into Darion’s solid chest. The rebel leader coughed in embarrassment and cast his eyes to the floor.
“No, take a good look,” Darion instructed, pushing Tolrek inside. “This is the Punishment Room and everything here was selected with you in mind.”
A leather-covered platform occupied most of the room. It was capable of being tilted. Darion ran his fingers over the leather, imagining Tolrek’s restrained on it. Then he walked to one wall where an assortment of whips hung, black leather contrasting menacingly with the pristine white walls. A whipping post was also set three feet from the wall.
“Feel the whips,” Darion said, taking one of Tolrek’s hands and forcing him to stroke some of the thickest whips. Tolrek’s fingers tensed as he touched the implements.
“But wait, there’s more,” Darion promised, leading him to another part of the room.
This location was home to chains of various sizes and weights. Darion took the heaviest one off its peg and placed it around Tolrek’s shoulders. Staring into his Pet’s eyes, he wrapped the restraining links three times around his neck.
“What do you think?” Darion questioned, as if he were merely asking about a glass of wine or a new book. “Doesn’t it make you feel special that it was one of several recommended just for you? Hmmm…Nothing to say? That’s fine but the tour isn’t over.”
Another area showcased more items of punishment, including gags and ropes. Still another section was present and Darion lingered there, giving his Pet an explanation.
“These wooden paddles are made from the Zarva tree. In case you didn’t know, it produces the strongest wood on this entire planet. You will break before one of these do.”
Darion took a thick paddle off the wall and turned it expertly in his hands. Suddenly, before Tolrek could move away, Darion had a firm hold on him. With damaging force, he connected with Tolrek’s ass, easily breaking the skin on the fifth of seven swings. Tolrek bit his lip, determined not to make a sound or to even try to pull away but the smacks had jarred him to his very bones.
“Those were for what you did to Halsam tonight. He is not for you to torture.”
Tolrek couldn’t find anything to say. There was no smart reply. No jeering. Nothing, just an uncomfortable feeling in his throat; it had suddenly gone dry.
For the first time, Tolrek began to understand the magnitude of his situation. Here stood the man who had bested him, the man who proudly showed off his Ode to Punishment, the man to whom he was registered as Pet A-21. Darion now owned him, like no other Pet was owned, Tolrek’s circumstances being extremely different. He certainly hadn’t expected to be treated like a typical Pet; doted on, pampered or spoiled. However, he’d also never considered that he’d be chained, paddled and/or whipped.
Watching realization dawn in Tolrek eyes, Darion smiled, a sinister edge to it.
“In time, you will come to see and accept your place in my household,” Darion stated. “Now, let us return to your room. I imagine you’ll have much to ponder tonight.”
Tolrek’s defiant pride caused him to follow Darion out of the punishment quarters and back to his own area.
“Well, I’m glad to get that bit of unpleasantness out of the way,” Darion said. “I hope I don’t have to use any of those things.”
He reached out to touch the face of his newly acquired Pet. His eyes still seeing the many implements in the Punishment Room, Tolrek did his best not to move away. He refused to show fear to Darion.
“You don’t know how much I’ve wanted you here,” Darion said. “All those months of waiting.”
Darion’s hand trailed down Tolrek’s side and around to his back, pulling him closer. He searched for signs of resistance in Tolrek’s eyes. Finding none—and pleasantly surprised—he bent his head, his mouth connecting with the other man’s. The kiss was full of such hunger that it took both of them off-guard.
Feeling Darion’s tongue playing with his, Tolrek tried to come to his senses, before he lost self-control. He put his hands against Darion’s chest to create some distance. Refusing this, Darion took Tolrek’s hands and clamped them behind the rebel’s back. Tolrek struggled to pull away, his mouth still full of Darion’s tongue, but the action was to no avail. When the two finally separated, they stared at each other.
“I definitely enjoyed tasting you,” Darion said.
Tilting Tolrek’s head up, Darion admired his facial features and the sexual flush that had come to Tolrek’s skin. “But I won’t go further right now. There’ll be more than enough time for other acts, now that you’re mine.”
“I’m not yours!” Tolrek spat, suddenly finding his voice. He stepped away so quickly from Darion that he bumped into the edge of the bed and lost his balance. He fell backwards and Darion moved stealthily to loom over him.
“I’ve just had my tongue down your throat. It’s a bit late to get indignant now, isn’t it?” Darion teased, running a thumb over Tolrek’s lips.
Tolrek tried to get up but Darion effortlessly pushed him back down. He trembled in fury and then in shame, refusing to look at Darion. Noting Tolrek’s demeanor, Darion smiled, deciding to leave his Pet for the moment. He walked to the door and then paused.
“By the way, Happy Anniversary,” he stated, casually. “It’s been a year since you surrendered.”
Darion left Tolrek’s quarters, activating the lock.
In the quiet of his room, Tolrek wished to himself that he had remained calm. Plagued by thoughts of what had happened and what else could happen, it took a while for him to get to sleep that night. For hours, he lay awake, having difficulties resting inside his extravagant cage. The realization that gave him the most trouble was that he hadn’t truly been bothered by getting manhandled.