“Don’t go that way!” Horse-Face’s companion tried in vain to keep up with the fleeing group. Not even lifting up the bottom of his cloak to keep his feet clear seemed to help.
Annette could only stand where she was as she, The Twin, and Ox-Head watched the young man go as far as he could before he tripped. It was only then that Annette ran over to help him.
“You all right, kid?” She almost didn’t notice that his hood had flipped off his head.
When she did, she was rendered speechless by what she saw. Or what she thought she saw. Annette only had a split second to register the sight before he stood back up and pulled his hood back up.
“I’ve had worse than a skinned knee,” he said. She knew better than to comment on that.
Horse-Face’s companion looked in the direction that they’d gone, and gave a defeated sigh. He then trudged back to where The Twin and Ox-Head were, with Annette following close behind.
“What, you’re not even going to try and keep going after them?” He didn’t answer her. Instead he just curled up in the corner and hung his head.
Now Annette sighed herself. “I guess I’ll do it. Builder probably won’t give as much a shit when I’m wandering out there.”
Without receiving an answer, she left them. Ox-Head waited a bit before running out from under the table and joining her.
Marc didn’t even want to listen to his family and friends calling out for him. All he wanted was to be in a dark place by himself to cry.
He now leaned against the wall of one such place, letting his anguish out as much as he wanted.
The last thing Marc had ever wanted to hear again was the name of the man that killed his mother.
No matter how many times he thought he’d moved on, he could feel the painful image of Troy beating Melanie to death.
He was so caught up in his pain, Marc almost didn’t hear footsteps nearby. Getting to his feet, he made his way over and peeked through a crack in a hidden door.
“Damned thief…” The Builder was staring down the heart of their latest clone victim, which lay off to the side like a sack of meat. “I’ll do to him what I did to this!”
Immediately after, they consumed the still warm heart as if it were a burrito. Then they pulled out a roll of bandages with their still bloodied hands.
As they rewrapped themself, The Builder could be heard murmuring, in a continuous loop:
“Vivat Regina Malum. Vivat Regina Malum.” As they spoke, The Builder’s voice became higher with each word, until it was little more than a screechy mantra.
“Vivat Regina Malum! Vivat Regina Malum! Vivat! Regina! Malum!”
Their shouting was enough to cause anyone nearby to fall backwards in shock. Much like it did for Annette and Ox-Head.
All the two could do at that point was watch The Builder freak out, at least until Annette snapped out of it and forced herself to keep walking.
“Come on, Ox-Head,” she whispered. “Let’s try and leave before they see us.” Ox-Head just nodded, and obediently followed her.
“Marc!” Sinbad called out to the depths before him, baffled as to how his half-brother could disappear so quickly. “Where you at, bro?!”
Everyone else was surveilling around themselves. Sagebear went on ahead of Sinbad, keeping her nose to the ground the entire time.
“I hope he’s okay,” Shark said to his fiance while taking hold of his arm. “This place is telling me we shouldn’t let our guard down.”
“Yeah,” Sinbad answered him. “And who’s to say that freak from earlier won’t have mercy on him, just because he’s missing an arm?”
Sagebear then stopped at a door. She began to bark at it, then scratched at it with her paw. The others all gave her their undivided attention the moment they heard her.
“Ya think she found something?” Blaise said with a bit of cautious hope.
“If we’re lucky, it’s Marc,” Harwood said after her as they all approached the now baying dog.
Taking hold of the door, Dennis pushed it open with an almost magical ease. What wasn’t magical was the sight before all of them:
A room containing numerous tubes, each with a clone inside.
“Oh, Sweet friggin’ Toledo,” Dennis said, completely appalled at this sight. The others said nothing, but appeared to share his feeling.
Against any better judgment, Shark was the first to go in and look around. The rest followed.
“The fuck?” Sinbad said while he stared at all the tubes. “What, are we in Shinra Headquarters now or something?”
Everyone just stared into the tubes, slack-jawed. Shark was especially concerned about the contents of the tubes, if only for one reason.
“Hey Sinbad,” he whispered while motioning for him to join him. “These clones look a lot like you.”
Sinbad was about to disagree with him, until he actually got a proper look at the clone in front of him. His usually grouchy demeanor dissolved into a horrorstruck expression.
“Oh, you gotta be shittin’ me…”
He and everyone else was then jolted by the sound of Annette’s voice cutting through the room.
“Afraid not, Sinbad,” she said as she entered. Ox-Head stayed behind at the door, for reasons known to him. “Do I have a lot to explain about this…”
Marc kept as quiet as he could, while watching Horse-Face mill about his room, doing seemingly random things.
“I’m going to be in so much trouble if The Builder finds out about this,” he could be heard saying as he messed around with a set of coiled breathing apparatus. “But then, what else is new?”
He then strode over to something covered in a white sheet, and patted it. Then he cast his look downward, as if silently begging for penitence.
“Please let this be the right thing to do,” he uttered. Then, Horse-Face left the room at a brisk pace, closing the door.
Once Marc believed the coast was clear, he crept out of his hiding spot and stepped toward the white sheet. He looked it over for a few brief moments, before grabbing hold of the sheet.
Once he pulled it away, he gasped loudly at what, or rather who, sat under it.
Although she wasn’t hooked up to as many machines, The Mother was unresponsive as ever.
Shortly after Annette and Ox-Head left the hidden passages, The Twin knelt down in front of Horse-Face’s companion. They waved their hand across his face to try and get his attention.
The young man at least acknowledged they were there. He looked up at them, his lip trembling.
“I can’t do anything. I don’t think I belong anywhere, if no one will listen.” He looked away, swallowed, then looked back at them.
“When I asked you if I had a future…” He hesitated, watching their expression falter. This gave him all he needed for an answer.
At this, the young man stood up, staring The Twin down. His fists clenched, and he set his mouth into a firm line.
“…You lied to me then, didn’t you?” Before The Twin could stand back up, Horse-Face’s companion ran through another corridor. He could be heard sobbing all the while.
The Twin remained where they were, reaching their arm out in a silent gesture of pleading. They then lowered their arm, knowing that he was right.
(Song where the chapter title comes from: )