Chapter 16 – Cooperation (1)

Cooperation – Part 1

      I wake up to the sound of everyone talking. I summon what energy I can to look around the room. Kay seems to notice me first and says, “Zero” in a much louder voice than I’ve ever heard from her. Like vultures on a fresh kill, the women surround me.

      “Zero!” Mimi says as tears pour from her eyes.

      Rose pushes her way to the front and puts her hand on my forehead. Her beautiful blue eyes carry the sheen of sadness as she touches me every which way to check and make sure I’m alright.

      “Move.” Is all Kay says while she drags Nina through the crowd of the others.

      “Check.” She demands of Nina as she pushes her towards me.

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      “Evangeline-sama, how are you feeling? Please follow my finger.”

      She moves her finger pass my eyes slowly and I do as I’m told. She gives a nod and places her hand on my chest, above my heart. “Pulse seems steady too.” She lets out a sigh.

      “This is because of you, you monster!”

      Rose shouts at Nina. To her service, Nina doesn’t even flinch while she continues to check my vitals.

      “You know nothing of my work. Do not speak as if you understand. This has nothing to do with what I have done.” Nina spits out without looking at Rose.

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      “Then why has this happened? Zero barely made it!” Rose loses her temper on Nina- Nina turns and glares daggers at Rose.

      “I will not have you slander me. I did nothing-” she’s cut off by Rose shouting, “You’re the unnatural monstrosity that forced us all here to begin with!”

      “Enough!”

      Mvoice rings out across the room with more force than I would have thought possible in my current state. Each woman freezes and looks at me.

      “Enough,” I say with even more effort. “I am the one in dire straits here, not all of you. For you all to be going at each other’s throats is a slander against my situation.” I tell them all in a weak, hoarse voice. They each look at me in turn before looking away.

      “Regardless of whatever it is you’re referring to, did Nina not save me today? And yet again before?” I ask them.

      Rose speaks up and says, “It’s her fault to begin with. She’s a traitor and a monster. You’re here now because-”

      “I am here now because she has done everything to save me right now, yes?” Rose is taken aback by my biting tone.

      “I-I-” I cut her off, “And you saved me too, all of you. I don’t really remember what happened but I could feel you all there for me.” Kay comes over and lays her hand on my head, then pats me- possibly mimicking what I had done to her before on several occasions.

      My dry lips crack into a wide smile. Kay may not be the best at showing herself to others, but she’s learning, even if she doesn’t realize it. I reach my hand up slowly and grab her other hand. I bring it to my lips and give it a small kiss. “Thank you Kay.” She gets that rare smile of hers and gives me a surprisingly energetic nod.

      Nina excuses herself as she takes Kay’s place. “Now Zero,” she says business-like, “What happened to you? From the top please.”

      I blush and look at the ceiling that has now become so fascinating. I hesitantly regale Nina with the events I remembered last; only without mentioning the little “encounter” Mimi and I had. Our training sessions are our secret alone. What happened afterward, is something I’ll take to my grave.

      Judging by Nina’s face I’m fairly sure Mimi hasn’t mentioned anything to her. “I’m not sure what-” There’s a roar of voices outside. The room grows tense but no one moves to check out the noise.

      “What is that? What’s happening?” I ask.

      Mimi shakes her head and says, “It’s just some guards raiding a house.”

      I stare at her confused, and Rose continues, “The past couple days have seen a rise in some violence. It’s of no concern to you my Lord.” I try to sit up but Nina pushes me back down gently and shakes her head.

      “You need to rest Evangeline-sama.” Nina chides me.

      From what she’s telling me it’s only been about two days since I was out with sickness. It seems there’s been some civil unrest due to rumors of the northern tribes attacking merchants on the road. From the explanations, it does sound like it’s not something I should concern myself with. But I feel something tug me on the inside. My head feels hazy from the specter of sleep and inevitably I’m forced to give in.

      I wake up in the middle of the night due to footsteps receding away from the rooms. It seems Kay is still leaving often.

      When the morning comes, I feel as good as ever; as if the events of those few days never existed. At my insistence, we all go to the Academy today. As soon as the first set of classes ended, I make my way to Nina’s lab. I don’t even bother to knock- instead, I just go inside. Nina looks up with a start, knocking a paper off her desk. One flies right to my feet and I bend over to pick it up but stop midway. Nina rushes towards me in a flurry, though much slower than I know she could be. She reaches for the paper and I take a step back and hold out my arm. On the paper, words catch my attention:

      Subject successfully revived. Irregularity with heart rate and lack of response to stimuli spoke of probable cessation of life for Z subject. Transcendence seemed to have rapidly halted and, I can not believe I’m going to write this, reversed cellular activity; resulting in the breakdown of vital functions. However, the subject is far too important to let expire. Consultation with Master Domnis resulted in the continuation of self-experiments to be projected onto the subject.

      “Self-experiments?” I utter.

      “Evangeline-sama list-” I cut her off with a flick of my hand. I don’t really understand how, nor was it done on purpose, but Nina is physically pushed back about half a foot. I continue reading the paper, starting further down the writings:

      Binding of aether on a cellular level resulted in only partial revival. For full functionality of consciousness, additional anchors had to be set. Proposal for continuing the soul tether on the others was approved. Due to-”

      That’s where the paper ended. I look up at Nina slowly. My head is wracked with confusion and disbelief. I stare at Nina as she stares back at me. I clear my throat and hold the paper out to her. She hesitantly takes it, but lets her hand fall to her side with the paper in her grip.

      “Evang-” is all she can say before I’ve turned around and left the room. Nina doesn’t follow me. Indeed, she wouldn’t dare. There is a lot for me to contemplate right now. However, I have to meet with Domnis- despite him seemingly being part of this whole thing too.

      The walk to his office is hazy in my mind and before I know it I stand in front of his door. I think to knock, but react differently- I simply open the door and walk in. Domnis looks up from his papers with a scowl on his face.

      “Even for the Zeroth, to simply just come in as you please is the height of brevity.” Domnis admonishes me while removing his glasses.

      “Dom,” I call out as I move in front of him. Again his face hardens and he opens his mouth to speak, but I cut him off with my glare.

      Dom looks at me with a wavering look before tentatively asking, “What is it Zero? What is wrong?”

      I have a million things wrong Dom. A million and one even. I need to scream at you about your ineptitude at finding out information on the Zeroth. I need to berate you for allowing Nina to perform experiments on me. I need to break you to release some of this pent-up anger.

      Yet what leaves my mouth seems to shock us both, “I have Nina working on a way to return me to my world. She’s brilliant, but could use the extra resources and help that you could provide. If you’ll promise me total secrecy, I’ll allow you to assist her. With this, you’ll come closer to learning the truth of who I am- potentially assisting you with who the Zeroth is. And for your part, you’ll assist me with leaving this nightmare world.”

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