• continued from part 1c (http://www.gaiaonline.com/arena/writing/fiction/vote/?entry_id=101043563#title)

    * * *

    Meanwhile, Mordea continued to cook the noodles. They had finally softened, so she turned off the stove and dumped the spice packets in. Then she pulled the small container of liquid from her pocket, the one that Nero had given her. She removed the cap. It was a clear, low-viscosity substance with a very faint burning odor to it. Mordea held the vial upright over the pot, and hesitated.

    “What are you waiting for?”

    Mordea turned around. She was still alone in the kitchen. Had she imagined it?

    She looked back at the noodles, and took a deep breath. Her hand was shaking. I’m just going to render him defenseless and leave. That’s all I have to do. I’m not murdering him.

    Still, she hesitated. It would just put him to sleep – but she still knew full well what would happen to him if she put him to sleep. He was going to die. A heart that would never beat again. Lungs that would never wring the air again. His warmth would disappear forever. The fire behind those crimson eyes would be extinguished. They would be emptied of that mysterious magic that made them search her eyes.

    Mordea retracted the vial and put the cap back on.

    A sharp hiss cut through the silence. The voice was there, and it was angry. Invisible hands grabbed her by the throat. It was a good thing that she didn’t need the air. “I told you to complete my will!” it roared. “You’ll do as I say, whether you like it or not!” It let go of her throat, and the unseen hands instead grabbed her hands and guided them. The cap was taken off of the vial and her arm was stretched out to hold the poison over the pot. Mordea fought it. The voice gripped her arm so hard that its claws dug into her arm, piercing her skin and making her bleed. Then it twisted her arm over to drop the poison into the pot.

    “Defy me again, and my claws will be the least of your worries!”

    Mordea looked around, waiting to see if the voice was going to harm her again. For what seemed like ages, there was still silence. But the voice wasn’t gone. It was always with her.

    She looked down at her arm to see the deep holes left by its claws. Her skin was regenerating quickly, right before her eyes. She cleaned the few drops of her dark, rotten blood off the floor and threw away the empty vial. Then she served up the ramen.

    The voice had been harsh, but she needed that harshness. She didn’t have enough strength to do this on her own. Really, she ought to be thanking the voice; it had just rescued her from the Professor’s anger.

    Mordea set the plates on the table and was about to go looking for Vincent when she spotted a pair of red eyes coming down the hallway. She turned and sat down at the table.

    Vincent sat down and looked at his plate. “Thank you,” he said politely.

    Mordea was so nervous she couldn’t pick up her fork. If her body had possessed the ability to sweat, she’d have been drenched with it by now. She just couldn’t do this!

    But she already had done it. The voice had done it for her. It was over.

    No! There was still time to stop this! He wasn’t dead yet!

    Vincent was twirling the ramen on his fork, trying to wrap a suitably-sized bite. The burning odor of the poison was masked by the ramen spice. He was oblivious.

    Mordea clenched her fists so tight that her palms began to bleed. She had to stop this madness.

    “Don’t you dare!” the voice snarled. But it had spoken too late.

    “STOP!!!” Mordea shouted, grabbing his fork and plate and throwing them against the wall. Poor Vincent was completely stunned. She buried her face in her hands and stood in the corner of the kitchen, with her back to him.

    Vincent stood up and walked towards her. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

    Without warning, Mordea whirled, grabbing one of the kitchen knives and pressing it against his throat in one smooth motion. Her fighting skills were flawless. With the other hand she grabbed a handful of his shirt and ran forward until he was pinned against the wall. Nero had been right about one thing: she’d caught Vincent completely off-guard.

    The knife was pressed so hard against his throat that he began to bleed a little. It wasn’t dark, rotten blood like her own; it was red, bright and healthy. Like his eyes. Those eyes that were so full of fire and life.

    Mordea was frozen. As she stood there, she somehow began to notice every sound in the room. Sirens on the streets outside. People in the apartments around them – talking, eating, and watching their TVs. Loudest of all was one person standing in front of her, breathing hesitantly. She could hear the living human, troubled though he was. Having a knife against one’s throat is the sort of thing that makes the living take very shallow breaths. The living will risk small movements to get the air they need. Yet, they always take the air for granted. They fail to notice the miracle that they carry within them every second of every day.

    “Stop listening to him! Listen to me!” the voice shouted. “FINISH IT!!!!”

    I can’t. Please don’t make me do this. Slowly, she moved her gaze upward until she met his eyes. Silver eyes locked onto crimson ones.

    He stared back, shocked and unwilling to put up a fight. Perhaps this girl really is Lucretia, he thought. Maybe she’s come back for vengeance. It was my fault after all . . . I broke my promise, and she paid for it. This is my punishment. I deserve this. I don’t belong in this world. I should have left it long ago.

    The living. The innocent. He wasn’t a target; he was a human being! It would be murder. He wasn’t trying to kill her. He had tried to help her. He never presented any threat whatsoever to her or anyone she cared about. I don’t want to be a murderer.

    She was still holding a handful of his shirt. The heel of her hand was resting on his chest, where she could feel a heart beating. He was a miracle – a beautiful, living miracle, and he didn’t even seem to notice; he was too busy punishing himself for his sins. But she noticed. She noticed the magic, the fire, the heartbeat. Envy welled up inside of her. It just wasn’t fair!

    “Ungrateful FOOL!!!” she shouted in his face. She let go of him and planted the knife firmly into the kitchen table before walking out the door and out of the building. Shame and guilt washed through her, making her feel sick. She couldn’t seem to walk fast enough, so she began to run.

    Vincent snatched Cerberus and his coat off their respective hooks and started chasing after her. He couldn’t just let this go. He couldn’t let her go, not without answers. He chased her down the dark and nearly desolate streets. With his long, lanky legs, he quickly overtook her, grabbing her shoulder to stop her. Then he quickly took hold of both of her wrists, holding them so tight that she winced. He was determined not to let her get away. “What’s going on?” he asked sternly. “Who are you? Why did you come?”

    Mordea loathed being held down. She broke free of his grip and grabbed his wrist and claw, pulling him towards her. Then she push-kicked him in the stomach as he was being pulled forward, causing him to stumble back a bit. She wasn’t really interested in injuring him. She tried to run off again, but Vincent wasn’t going to let her go. She hadn’t answered his questions. He tried to grab her again with his claw. She reached across the top of the claw, grabbed the opposite side of his palm, and flipped his hand over, putting him in an inverted wrist lock. It didn’t cause him any pain, but the metal prosthesis creaked and groaned, threatening to snap. Still unwilling to injure him, she let go of the lock and pushed him backwards. She stepped into a deep stance as she pushed him, giving her enough force to move him back several feet. Vincent was surprised. He was quite a bit bigger than her – but he was a gunman, not a martial artist. Hand-to-hand combat had never been his specialty. Back when he was testing to enter the Turks, he’d re-taken the hand-to-hand portion of the test. His superiors had always been careful to assign him distance shooting jobs.

    After a moment, Mordea stood up straight from her fighting stance and faced him squarely. “You must let me go. Do not follow, do not ask questions. You must also run; don’t even go back to your apartment. Nero would be waiting for you back there. Get out of this city, tonight. Don’t look back. And for goodness’ sake, don’t ever trust people like me!!!” Then she turned to leave.

    “Why?” he shouted. “Who sent you?”

    She stopped. “The Professor.”

    Vincent couldn’t be absolutely sure who that “Professor” was, but he had a pretty good idea. It made sense, considering the familiar appearance of the beast that had been chasing her. But why had it been chasing her, if she was allied with this Professor? Had it all been a set-up? The thought of it sent chills down his spine.

    Mordea started running again. That voice was very angry with her – cursing her and dragging its claws up and down the inside of her back. She refused to give into it. She just needed to get away. There was no way Mordea could go back to the lab now; not after this. She just kept running.

    Vincent’s mind was spinning. The Professor. That raised more possible reasons for why Rozu looked so much like Lucretia, reasons that he didn’t like to think about. But if Hojo was still alive, he needed to know more about it. He started running again, trying to catch up with her. “Wait! Rozu!” He wanted a full explanation.

    Vincent stopped short as a dark figure ran out from the shadows and grabbed her. Nero had torn his arms loose from his suit and was trying to grab hold of her. Each time he tried to grab, she’d circle her own arm around his and break his grip. She gave him one good kick in the ribs, resulting in a soft crunch. She wasn’t going to take it easy on Nero like she had with Vincent. Nero’s loyalty to the Professor was far greater than any friendship with her, and since she had disobeyed the Professor on two counts, she knew she would receive no mercy from Nero. Nero doubled over and stumbled backwards, holding his side. It looked like she had gained the upper hand, and she backed away, preparing to run again. Suddenly, the end of one of Nero’s skeletal steel wings folded outward and stretched towards her. It impaled her through the shoulder and pinned her to a nearby tree. She screamed, grabbing onto the wing with her other hand in an attempt to hold herself up. Her feet were dangling in the air.

    Those cruel-looking wings also doubled as guns. Nero pointed the other one up at her and fired a warning shot next to her face, then aimed the barrel straight at her head. He turned to Vincent. “Give yourself up, or she dies.”

    “No, Vincent!” she shouted. “I can’t die! They can’t hurt me! Just run! Hurr–” she stopped and winced as Nero twisted the wing that had impaled her.

    Vincent reached inside his coat for his gun. Nero responded by firing a bullet that grazed her face, leaving a deep gash in her cheek, before Vincent could even get his gun out of his coat. Then Nero aimed back at her face again, threatening. “Put down your gun, Vincent Valentine,” Nero grumbled slowly. “This is non-negotiable. You will surrender or she will die.”

    Four hired mercenaries stepped out of the shadows with their weapons pointed at Vincent. The fifth carried large, strange-looking rings – magnetic shackles that were activated by remote control. Nero had come prepared; he didn’t trust Mordea.

    Vincent reluctantly put down his gun and allowed them to bind his hands and feet. He couldn’t take the chance. He wasn’t going to risk losing her again. He didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.

    “No!” Mordea yelled again. “Don’t listen to him! Fight them and run! I can’t die!” The gash across her cheek had regenerated, leaving no trace that it had ever existed, but by then Vincent was already safely chained up.

    Nero clicked his tongue at her. “He’s not going to do that, dear. Like I told you before – he’s a nice guy. And after the Professor has disposed of you, he’s going to take care of Valentine himself.”

    Even though I failed . . . I’ll still get my reward? The Professor would never be so kind. Perhaps Nero was just taunting her. Still, she wanted it to be true. She longed for nothingness.

    Nero ordered the mercenaries to chain her as well before finally retracting his wing. The group hauled her and Vincent back to the lab. It was a massive complex, hidden underground below the ruins of an old Shin-Ra company office. It had once been the nerve center of the entire company’s science department. Most of it was not in use; they had to walk for a while before reaching the main, active part of the lab.

    The Professor was there waiting for them. When he saw Mordea, he laughed. “I find it hard to believe that you were such a coward!” he cackled. “You had the guts to use your son and your beau as test subjects. If you really have so little respect for human life, why can’t you muster the guts close up your experiments?”

    “Test subjects? Experiments?” she stuttered, thoroughly confused. “But– sir! I don’t know how to do experiments!”

    The Professor punched her so hard that she fell over backwards. Her lip bled, but only for a moment before regenerating. She’d expected it – not only had she failed him, but she had disobeyed his orders and tried to run away again. Even though the damage from the blow healed quickly, she refused to move. She laid where she had fallen, staring at the ground. She didn’t dare to look up at the Professor. Mordea knew from experience that anything besides absolute submission would bring on harsher beatings. Since she was indestructible, the Professor could do anything he wanted for as long as he wanted, without any risk of permanently damaging her.

    Vincent began to struggle violently against his chains when she was struck. The moment Vincent saw the Professor, his blood began to boil. It was indeed Hojo. There was no other person on the planet who he hated more than Hojo. Hojo was supposed to have been dead, killed many years ago in the incident with Sephiroth. Unfortunately, that monster had been resourceful enough to evade death yet again.

    Hojo noticed Vincent’s furious struggle. It took all five of the mercenaries to control him. “Vincent Valentine,” Hojo said, taking a couple of steps towards Vincent. “You don’t seem to like that very much, do you?” He turned and soccer-kicked Mordea in the stomach. Then he laughed and turned towards Vincent again. “At first, I was going to have you killed immediately. But now I can see that it will be far more entertaining if I let you see the show first.”

    Knowing that Hojo would gladly harm her further just to make him angry, he stopped struggling. If looks could kill, Hojo would have been dead seven times over by now. Vincent thought Hojo looked a bit uglier than last time. All of Hojo’s exposed skin was blotchy and discolored. Probably the result of yet another botched experiment.

    Vincent was so tempted to release Chaos – but there was too great a risk of them killing Rozu before he had the chance to stop them. In hostage situations, timing was everything – down to the last millisecond. The Chaos transformation would take too long.

    “How do you like my sense of humor?” Hojo asked Vincent, motioning towards Mordea. “Do you remember her face?”

    Of course. That face was something Vincent could never, ever forget.

    “It really is a pity she didn’t kill you. I wanted to see the look on your face when she did,” Hojo chuckled. “At least she helped to bring you in – I couldn’t have done any of this without her.” The Professor reached down and yanked Mordea to her feet, then caressed her face, gloating. “Take them to the third level. Make sure they share the same cage,” he said, grabbing her by the hair and throwing her at Nero’s feet.

    The third level was where all the non-humanoid test subjects were kept. It was very noisy when they entered the room; hundreds of shrieks and growls from the various creatures housed there made it impossible for the mercenaries to hear each other speak. The smell was even more overpowering than noise – ever since the official fall of Shin-Ra, Hojo had lost his funding and no longer had Shin-Ra employees to do his bidding and clean the cages. The third level was always dirty.

    Once Vincent and Mordea were securely locked inside the cage, the mercenaries turned off their magnetic shackles, allowing the prisoners to move their arms and legs freely. Then the mercenaries left. They would stand guard outside the door, but none of them were willing to stand guard inside that horrid-smelling room. Nero dimmed the lights once more as he exited the room, causing the creatures to settle down. The noise quickly subsided.

    Vincent had so many questions to ask her, but didn’t know where to begin. It also took him a while to get past the smell so that he could force himself to breathe and talk.

    He decided to ask the question that was bothering him most: “Where did you come from? Why do you look so much like Lucretia?”

    His question was met with a cold silence.

    Vincent tried again, louder this time. “Where did you come from?”

    She still didn’t answer. She just stood motionless with her back to him. He reached to touch her upper arm with his hand. She was still wearing that green Hello Kitty dress, which had small cap sleeves on it. He had just taken his glove off. When his hand reached her, it landed on skin. He flinched away immediately. Her skin was icy-cold – the same temperature as the metal bars of the cell they were in.

    “That’s right,” she said in a hopeless, angry voice. “I told you he couldn’t kill me.” She turned to look at him. “It’s because I’m dead already.”

    He stood silent and unmoving, trying to take it in. He waited patiently for more of an explanation.

    “My real name is Mordea. Several years ago, the Professor created me, just as I am now. I have always been undead.” She studied him for a response, but he just stared back at her, waiting to hear more. “I was created to kill you. Ever since my existence began, the Professor has arranged for me to be trained to kill. I am the perfect weapon, for no one can kill what is already dead. I can’t be harmed either, really – my body is capable of regenerating itself.” She grabbed her sleeve and pulled it sideways to expose more of her shoulder, showing him the spot where Nero had impaled her. “It was healed before we even reached the lab.”

    Vincent directed his gaze to the floor. She must be a clone. He sent her clone to kill me. That creep . . . He took advantage of her in life, and now he dishonors her memory!

    “Now that I have failed to fulfill my purpose, the Professor will probably dispose of me. The continuance of my existence . . . is none of your concern. I wish you had not surrendered.” Her voice had softened. “You don’t deserve to be here.”

    Vincent remained silent. He wasn’t going to apologize. Immortal or not, he wouldn’t have allowed Nero to continue shooting her. It wasn’t right. The ability to heal didn’t make any of the abuse okay.

    One question was nagging at him though: “Mordea . . . if you’re immortal, then how can Hojo say that he’s going to kill you?”

    She paused a moment. “Well . . . I can’t be killed by normal means because I regenerate. I can even regrow entire limbs and organs. But . . . if my entire body was completely destroyed all at once, there would be nothing left of me to regenerate. He will most likely find some way to vaporize me.”

    After a few minutes, Mordea sat down and leaned against the bars of the cage and closed her eyes. She looked so relaxed and peaceful, even while facing the end of her existence. She was used to this – both the abuse and the cold steel bars. It was all she had ever known. She acted like it was normal. She was back home.

    It explained a few things. Most people were very nervous around Vincent when they first met him. His 30-year sleep in a coffin – combined with the alterations to his body before that – had resulted in a very strange appearance. The red eyes, wild hair, intimidating stature and mode of dress, and cruel-looking metal claw frightened people. No one ever wanted to sit next to him on the bus or subway. Rozu, on the other hand, never once flinched. She didn’t even seem to notice that he was different. It was because the only thing she’d known during her short life was the freak show of Hojo’s lab. Vincent looked quite normal when compared to the likes of Nero.

    Rozu. Whose idea had that name been? The faux name fit her about as well as that Hello Kitty dress. She was a lab rat. An outcast. A kindred spirit.

    Mordea still carried that book with her – the one that told of the fate of humanity. It seemed appropriate, now that she was finally on the verge of obtaining the nothingness she had longed for.

    She went back to those first few pages. Last time, she had skimmed over them. She wanted to read again about how it used to be in the beginning.

    “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth . . . And God saw that it was good.” He created the first day. It was mind-boggling to think that any entity could create time itself. The Professor certainly couldn’t do that. God surpassed the Professor.

    The end of that first account was sad. Pain and suffering, eternal death. There was no point in knowing about unavoidable eternal punishment. The girl on the sidewalk talked about life. Where was that story?

    That spot a little past the middle of it . . . There it was. It told of how God sent his Son, a divine being in a fully human body. That Son showed people how to live by God’s laws by descending into the accursed filthy world, living humbly as a mere human and becoming a living example of how to keep God’s laws. He never broke a single rule. But he went where we can’t follow . . . All are imperfect. This Son couldn’t be duplicated. Such perfection could not be attained, even by the book’s own admission.

    That wasn’t the reason the Son came. He was sent as a sacrifice to establish a new covenant. Humanity’s sins required blood as payment, a way to escape eternal death. Until the arrival of the Son, the blood of beasts was given to atone for breaking the laws. The Son was a supreme sacrifice – more precious than the blood of a thousand beasts. It would end the need for animal sacrifice and begin a new covenant between God and humanity – a covenant in which sins were not simply covered up with blood, but actually forgiven. That was what would allow people to live anew. The dead would be reborn, allowed to live anew. It broke the curse.

    The girl’s words echoed through her mind. “Do you want to live?”

    That would be nice – but I don’t know if I can. When it comes right down to it, I don’t think I deserve . . .

    “But if you just accept the gift–”

    It wasn’t about deserving it. It was about accepting it. It was choosing to allow God to forgive and grant new life. It was abandoning the “habit” of breaking the laws and starting all over again.

    It’s . . .

    She clapped the book shut and stared at the floor.

    “What book is that?” Vincent asked quietly.

    “It’s . . .”

    Vincent waited, but she never finished. Slowly, she closed her mouth and lowered her eyes to her lap.

    It’s too much. It’s so big. It’s . . . my whole world . . .

    At that moment, one of the mercenaries walked in and flipped the lights back on. All the beasts put out a deafening racket.

    Vincent and Mordea’s restraints were activated. Mordea dropped the book as the rings on her wrists clapped together with the ones on her ankles. The magnetic rings effectively bundled her hands and feet to each other.

    Vincent’s restraints were activated one step further. The magnets were turned up so that his bundle of arms and legs were dragged across the floor until the rings were stuck to the metal bars of the cage. They had only come to extract Mordea, and they weren’t about to take any chances with Vincent. Nero had said he was “a sneaky one, who bears watching.”

    One of the mercenaries opened the cage door. “The Professor wants you in the second-level neurological lab,” he said to Mordea as he dragged her out of the cage. Her leg restraints were released so that she could walk.

    Mordea’s mind raced as she was escorted from the room. There wasn’t any equipment in that lab that could end her existence. That also was not the room where she had been taken to be punished last time she had escaped. Has he come up with a new form of punishment?

    They locked the cage, released Vincent’s restraints, and dimmed the lights again as they left the room. The restraints were activated and deactivated on his captors’ whim. Vincent did not like the magnetic restraints at all. All his enhanced strength could not make the rings budge, even when they were only activated to the lowest level. He hated everything about it – the cages, the experiments, the torment – this feeling of powerlessness. He hated that the nightmare refused to die, even after they’d fought Hojo and left him for dead. He hated that Mordea was suffering the same way he’d suffered back then. She was completely broken inside, seeking death as her only hope. It was like looking at a picture of his past self.

    Vincent hadn’t been this angry in years. It tore open old wounds and rubbed sand in them. It was boiling him from the inside out. He was locked securely in a cage while they were doing goodness-knows-what to her. All he could do was sit and wait. It was all happening again. It was closing in around him. He could still hear Hojo’s maniacal laugh echoing in his mind. Hojo would once again take away everything he’d ever held dear.

    I vowed I would never go back to that coffin. I won’t let him break me again. Never again! This can’t be allowed to happen!

    Vincent stopped himself. Unseen beneath his heavy coat, the skin on his back was rippling. Terrible black wings fidgeted beneath his skin. They wanted out. They fed on his rage and pled for blood as their dessert. In battle, their bloodlust could be harnessed for the sake of good. But in this cage, they would only fling themselves vainly against the bars and squander his precious strength. He needed to calm down.

    Trying to find something else to occupy his mind, Vincent picked up the book and tried to read from the same spot Mordea had been looking at. He wanted to know what had made her react so strangely.

    Mordea was gone for quite a while. He read a lot of the book – all about the fall of humanity, their punishment, and the new covenant brought in with the sacrifice of a Flawless One. God himself in a human body. He said he would forgive sins instead of just covering them up with blood.

    But I don’t deserve forgiveness.

    It was a very strange book – there was no action required to earn this forgiveness. There was no criteria for certain people to be forgiven. According to the text, no one deserved forgiveness; all of them were undeserving like Vincent. But people were still forgiven, because it didn’t matter whether or not they deserved it.

    There was one story that caught Vincent’s attention. The entire book was set in ancient times, where there was an extremely primitive environment. Sickness and death were rampant. The Flawless One, Jesus, possessed the ability to heal others. This attracted a great number of crowds. There were also people who flocked in great numbers to hear him preach. Jesus was talking inside a building, and the crowd was poured into the building so thick that no one could get through. A crippled man wanted to be healed, but could not get through the crowd. So the man’s friends climbed up on the roof, tore a hole in the ceiling, and lowered the crippled man down in front of Jesus on a mat. Jesus healed the man of course, but there was one thing he said before healing him: “Your sins are forgiven.” The man hadn’t asked for it. He probably didn’t deserve it. But he was forgiven.

    Years ago, a friend had asked Vincent a question. “Can sins be forgiven?”

    “I’ve never tried.” At that time, Vincent had not wanted forgiveness. It just didn’t seem right after all the things he’d done. It was too easy. Even now, he was not sure if he really wanted forgiveness.

    Had the crippled man wanted forgiveness?

    * * *

    Before being taken all the way to the lab, she was ordered to change back into her lab robes. Mordea was glad to comply; the clothes outsiders wore were itchy and uncomfortable. The robes were specifically designed for the test subjects; they had easy-open zippers on both the front and back, and loose sleeves that could be quickly pulled out of the way so IVs could be put in. It was the Professor’s versatile, efficient (and more modest) version of a hospital gown.

    Once they arrived at the neurological lab, Mordea was strapped into a seat that was similar to a dental chair. Around the headrest were three thin, curved prongs, each about ten inches long. Once she was secured, the machine hummed to life and the prongs clamped onto her head like a falcon’s claw.

    The Professor began the awakening program and got out of his chair. “Take her back to the cage when the cycle is complete.” He left the room to find more interesting things to do while the machine followed its course.

    Mordea remained conscious during the procedure – just barely. She could feel things changing inside her mind. Thoughts and images she didn’t recognize bounced around inside her head like ping-pong balls. She couldn’t think straight. Things were coming into her mind, but they were completely disorganized. It was like trying to put together a 5,000-piece puzzle while a tornado was blowing the pieces around. The process went on for hours.

    When they finally brought her back, she had her eyes closed and was trembling all over. Once the cage was locked and Vincent’s restraints were released, he went over to her. She was just so cold. He took off his coat and draped it over her.

    “Put your coat back on, Vincent Valentine,” she grumbled. “You need it more than I do.”

    “But you’re shivering.”

    “I’m not shivering! I’m twitching! And my head feels like someone played a volleyball tournament with it! Now leave me alone!” She threw off the coat, crawled into a corner and curled up, slowly rubbing her temples. She couldn’t ever remember having a headache of this magnitude in her life. It was making her dizzy and nauseous. The Professor hadn’t inflicted any damage to her tissues, and even if he had, it should have regenerated by now. Continuing pain like this could only be caused by artificial implants that her body couldn’t “heal” away. He must have activated some sort of machinery inside her brain. She wanted to scream, but she knew that would only make her head feel worse.

    She was also seeing flashes – thousands of images from one person’s life. There weren’t any new pieces coming in, but the pieces were still flying around crazily. It was as if the Professor had downloaded someone else’s lifetime memories into her brain.

    This was just the first stage. The computer had systematically unlocked the encrypted data within her mind. There was a short “overload period” before the final plunge. The data wouldn’t be of any use unless it was reassembled. Each bit of data had to be filed into the spot where it had been over 30 years ago.

    Mordea’s body shook violently, and then went still. She was completely limp.

    “Mordea?” Vincent touched her arm, but there was no response. He started to reach to check her pulse, then caught himself. How was he supposed to know whether or not she was still “alive?” Was she really dead this time, or was she just unconscious?

    A body like hers could not be destroyed so easily. She was simply sealed off from the outer world as her memories – yes, her memories – were strung together and played systematically from the beginning. The data was fully decrypted. The past was unlocked.

    I don't log in here much, but my friend xxblack jelloxx does. Please send all comments to her and she'll tell me about them when I see her biggrin

    continued in part 2a....