Song by Buzz McCoy & Groovie Mann
Published by SleazeBox Music / BMI
Vocals - Groovie Mann
Keys & Programming – Buzz McCoy
Part IV: It's not gonna change my mind
Zarkon heard the mumble of two female voices. The content was at first difficult for his muddled head to understand. He rubbed his head, sighing as he sat up. And saw his giant webbed feet exposed for all the Universe to see.
"As you can see here, his feet are palmate, but due to foot binding, his back toe is permanently twisted to the side to simulate a plantigrade gait."
"Amazing! Look, I didn't know he had twelve toes. Ten webbed. Are you saying he's supposed to walk like a bird or a cat, and not flat on his feet?"
"Seems as much. Fascinating, never knew his ancestral race had this anatomical structure. Must be painful, contributing to his perpetually sour mood."
"What is the meaning of this?" he bellowed, futilely clasping his feet with his hands. His skin flushed, darkening.
"What about his hands, he doesn't have webs on his fingers?" Borrhéan asked, oblivious to his discomfort.
Hagar pointed at them. "Look closely: the webs were cut away, the wounds likely cauterized several times to inhibit regeneration." Both women gave him a pitying look that made Zarkon want to vomit. He rubbed his head, noticing that his arms were bare. His clothes were removed, and he was underneath a pale sheet. One hand holding the sheet around his lower body, his opposite arm extending its fins and spines, he quickly leaped off the chaise, jumping and landing with only his toes on the floor. Despite his knees slightly bent, his arched feet increased his height. His chest gills rhythmically fluttered from his excited state.
"By the Gods, he's faster and taller! Amazing," Borrhéan exclaimed, her acclamation honest. "No wonder you have never lost in hand-to-hand combat; you are an unstoppable machine."
He cringed at the term 'machine,' his eyes spilling an angry violet haze that matched the energy jolting from his spines. "I am going to...kill you both!"
"No, you aren't, so stop blustering," Hagar retorted as Borrhéan paled at the threat. "Your physical modesty is very cute, though." He replied with a growl.
Hagar held up an electronic storage device. "Ah-ha!" Hagar said with a firm smile. "You are a sublime work, a walking marvel, my friend. No wonder that diviner, Reyk, went ballistic trying to find you after your father died."
Zarkon stiffened at the paternal term. His throat was dry, his tongue sticky. The air thickened about him. "What is so special?" he made his query sound smooth and nonchalant, as though the information she had learned was routine. He tried to read Borrhéan's reaction, but he could not decide if she was scared, awed or disgusted. He started pacing, never losing sight of the two women.
Hagar's eyebrows raised as she pushed a button on the drive so that a projection, a colorful printout of his genome, decorated the closest wall. "Tetragametic chimerism of two hybridized zygotes: they must have fused, one engulfing the other." His brow furrowed, forming unattractive folds of skin flanking his sinus crest. "That means what?"
"Hybrids are different from chimeras, and you are both. You have two distinct Duonulan genomes in your body: some cells of your body have one set of DNA, others the other, and most of your body likely has a varied mix of both. Your hair, for example," she pointed upward, "the white is from one cell line, the black, the other. Depending on which follicle was used for DNA testing, you could have two completely different profiles. Your blood happens to have two populations, no doubt causing hell in profiling using that method." She scanned his face, giving time for her words to seep in. "One zygote had predominantly Drule genes for the hybrid: this is also the one that led to your reproductive system. You never had anything major to fear: a child can never come out looking like you. Frankly, cloning you is impossible. The over-expression of Opachrian Native genes has prolonged your life and your prime, but if one cell population starts dying before the other, you will have a rapid senescence. Rather poetic, for the Face of Dhmfidr, the duality goddess, no?"
Borrhéan clasped her hands as though she were praying. Zarkon shook with fury.
"All I can suggest is ensuring no one gets a hold of that second set of DNA. You practically mummify yourself in the name of fashion, and your blood destroys and degrades on contact, so all you really have to worry about is your hair."
"Enough with you! You speak as if you are different. Borrhéan, do you know why she lived on that satellite world and not on Apodia?" his voice full of malice. She shook her head as Hagar held her arms akimbo.
He pointed a finger at the sorceress, its nail crackling with the electricity gathered at its tip. "She can't handle the gravity there, so she's spent her entire life hopping from planet to planet, trying to come to terms with the fact that the hybrid construct SHE is, is a failed experiment, and nothing more." He laughed malevolently.
"You want to take me on, boy?" Hagar challenged with her staff, aiming it at him.
"Hagar, what are you doing?" Borrhéan cried out. Zarkon pulled her behind him. He grabbed the plush rug and pulled it with all his strength. Hagar cursed as she lost her balance. He slammed his palms on the metal floor, his anger fueling a strong surge of current that shocked the witch as she hit the floor. Borrhéan smelled burnt hair.
Hagar gasped and lurched once the charge dissipated; it had been strong enough to silence any screams of pain she had. She propped herself up with her staff. "Well...done." Her green fur was tinged about her face and fingers, her red dress the same. The strong burning scent made her eyes water more than the tingling aftermath did and she sneezed.
"I may not be a magician or a sorcerer, but I use what I have only when I have to. I am no one's puppet. Or pet," he turned his attention on Borrhéan.
Her face was blank as she prepared herself for the final phase of the plan. "I won't say anything, I think you are, are..." her voice trailed off as she readied her nerve, "Is it true that you can heal?"
Zarkon was aghast. "Hagar!" he rumbled.
"You are going to wake your son; do you want him to see you like this?" Hagar regained her composure, flicking her right hand towards the door.
"Zarkon," Borrhéan called gently. He turned, his mouth clenched tight. "I only want my son by my side. He is too young to go to any academy, I don't care how smart he is. Please, only a couple of years; he ages slower than I, it will not harm him, but it would mean the Universe to me."
"And if I refuse?" he loomed over her, his chest gills useless in the air but working in earnest from his agitation. He held a forearm inches away from her throat, the small fin spines tickling her throat as she exhaled. "Will you consign me to a life of experimentation by the Drules or the Galaxy Alliance? You had better think your answer through, for if I'm such a specimen, then so is Lotor."
"You won't refuse, though, will you?" Borrhéan stated plainly.
"Answer the question," he snarled.
"No. I have been violated here. You have betrayed me. I have tolerated you long enough. You do what I say, now!"
Borrhéan stepped back. "You have never loved me, have you?"
Zarkon retreated as well, finding his undergarments and redressing. Hagar kept quiet, watching the moments pass with keen yellow eyes.
"I thought that I was a kindred spirit, someone like you." Borrhéan added. Her eyes were downcast.
"A freak, you mean? A pariah?" he countered, fixing his belt over his dark robe.
She bit her lip.
"I'll admit your former wit and unique physique was charming, but I also chose you because I knew you and your family were desperate enough to marry you off and that I wouldn't have a chance in conceiving with a human, thus giving me plenty of time to groom whatever successor I wanted." He grimaced at her as he lightly jostled his crown in his hands. "I just never expected you to be so persistent."
Borrhéan's legs shivered as she removed a hypodermic needle from an inner pocket of her dress. "Is that so?" She removed the plastic cap with her teeth.
Hagar sat down in Borrhéan's chaise, tapping her thigh.
Zarkon acknowledged the needle. "What are you going to do with that?" he asked quietly.
"You can heal people."
Zarkon sighed and nodded. "Only small things. There, you happy?"
"But you don't."
He shrugged. "Why should I? It's not my nature. I've told you before, Borrhéan, don't humanize me. I can't be changed, I WON'T be changed by any of you."
"Not even for your son's mother?"
"Mothers, bah," he spat. "They do their part and then they leave, their offspring pick up their tab."
Borrhéan held up the needle. "I don't want to leave my son, you are forcing it."
Zarkon's look was considering. "You will not abandon him?"
She shook her head.
"Then it won't matter if he spends three years at the special academy then," he said with finality.
Hagar closed her eyes and mumbled a low spell. Borrhéan's hand injected the needle into her stomach.
"What?" Borrhéan said dumbfounded as she pulled it out of her. "I changed my mind. I didn't, I didn't..."
Zarkon grasped her by the shoulders as the needle fell to the floor. "What have you done?" He caught her as she collapsed, twitching. "You won't," she managed.
"Heal her," Hagar approached them. A kneeling Zarkon looked up at her. "I won't. I'll give her her freedom." He turned back and held Borrhéan in his arms. "She almost had me convinced." He laid her down on the floor. Zarkon rolled up his sleeve and with a quick slash from his spines, his long plaited hair fell to the ground. He wove it around Borrhéan's arms.
"She lived to hear my secret, now she can spend eternity with it."
He never saw the look of satisfaction on Hagar's face.