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“…Fucking Brilliant…” Faustus muttered under his breath as she shook the dirt and sand out of his eyes and clothes. He’d have to hand it to Mercy and Trick; buried in the mountains, halfway between the Ezramatheia and the growing village nearby, the skeletal remains of one of the many cities they had destroyed upon their arrival to Cirxci was the last place anyone would think to look. Absolutely no one living in the immediate area had any reason to think anything was still alive back here.

What Faustus hadn’t counted on were the gale force winds that had sprung up out of virtually nowhere, whipping up a sandstorm strong enough to strip nearly all the trees bare. Walking had become a struggle as his visibility had been reduced to nothing, turning the otherwise short trip into an absolute nightmare. Thankfully, he’d been sent here on a very specific errand and had over-dressed and over-prepared himself accordingly. He’d simply pulled his hood down over his head, pulled his zipper all the way up to his nose and hurried himself along.

One could never be too careful while converting an alien planet into a new home, he knew better than most.

It had felt as though the winds had only gotten worse once he’d breached the city walls. Sticking to the dilapidated buildings, he hadn’t so much found the cellar doors as he’d tripped over and fallen through them, barely catching himself on the railings before his face had hit the ground below. He’d stood up, grateful nothing had broken before he’d remembered to triple lock the doors from the inside. Now, as annoyed as he was at all the sand he’d been forced to ingest, he supposed he could count himself lucky a sandstorm and some rusty hinges were the only major problems he’d encountered thus far.

Faustus pulled his hood down as he finished dusting himself off, digging his glasses out from the inside of his sleeve where he’d placed them to shield them from the storm. He cleaned them off as best as he could before sliding them up his nose, making note of how damp it was as his eyes adjusted themselves to the dim lighting. With only a few, small, cracked and dirt-covered windows, Faustus had to watch his step as he made his way across the cavernous space, trying not to fall over dusty crates and empty barrels, all while avoiding broken pottery vases, empty picture frames and row upon row of bookshelves coated in cobwebs and unreadable novels.

Reaching the far wall without seeing so much as a single soul, Faustus had himself wondering if he’d possibly gotten his co-ordinates wrong when he became aware of a dull but repetitive thumping sound coming from somewhere nearby. Initially believing it was only the storm knocking things around outside, he turned his head and realized it actually came from the bottom of a second, unlit stairwell, conveniently hidden behind a partially broken doorway.

With the strange noises he heard growing louder with every new step he took, an undaunted Faustus attempted to skulk his way downwards. Stealth had never been his strong suit however, and the rusty metal stairs still creaked and groaned under the weight of the heavy boots he wore. He rather quickly found himself facing another door and braced himself for whom – or what – was on the other side as he pushed it open as quietly as he could. It was only when it had swung itself inwards did Faustus bare witness to the incredibly strange spectacle that had been unfolding down here during their relatively short absence from the premises.

It was here, in the opposite corner, on a small, ratty bed covered by only a ripped up, floral mattress did he find a bare-chested and unconscious Basha. His feet had been handcuffed to the warped and misshaped frame while his hands were bound by the shirt he no longer wore. Sitting on top of him was a petite female, her shoulder-length, black hair streaked with gray while the bottom half of her face remained permanently covered with a matching black gas mask trimmed with solid gold. If Faustus felt any relief at finding them, it evaporated much too fast for it to register as he stood there for a moment and watched her.

“Would you please care to explain to me what the actual Hell you think you’re doing?” He asked, unable to come up with a rational explanation of his own.

“They told me it was an emergency.” Hyde had slowed down her movements at the sound of her voice, finally stopping herself to answer his question. “Faustus is busy, they said. We need you to come take a look at this, they said. Then they basically dragged me down here without even letting me bring any of my shit with me…”

It was only when Faustus took a step forward, his foot hitting a hand-sized, dome-shaped, metallic object did he begin to think he understood exactly what she’d done.

“So you dragged him to the bed, took his shirt off, tied him up with it and pried the cover off his modulator somehow.” Faustus could smell burnt plastic; the end result of overloaded circuitry. One more step, and he was also able to make out what he could only assume was coolant, leaking from an invisible source and dripping down his chest and stomach; “So, back to my question… What the Hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I thought they were dead.” Even with her face and voice as stifled as they were, Hyde’s anger was apparent. Her words dripped with bitterness and sarcasm. “I thought for sure the crash had killed them both. Fuck knows they both deserve it.”

Faustus opened his mouth, ready to point out she was still dodging his question… But Hyde was far from done.

“His wires are burnt and his core’s right about as fried as his fucking brain cells.” She explained as she rolled her eyes in hopeless exasperation. She picked up the knife she’d dropped upon Faustus’ arrival, hellbent on finishing what she’d started before he’d interrupted her. Faustus once again attempted to interject as she raised it over her head.

“I wouldn’t try doing that… It won’t get you anywhere.”

But Hyde had already tuned him out as she went right back to hitting the knife’s handle into Basha’s chest with all the anger and strength she could muster; “Stupid fucking idiot… What the Hell were you even thinking? Blowing up the Ezram like that… You could’ve fucking killed EVERYONE!!”

Hyde’s rage and frustrations kept growing as Faustus watched her bash the knife’s handle into his modulator again, and again, and again; “I lost both my parents and my brother because of you!!” She was talking directly to Basha as though he could hear her, her voice growing louder until she finally screamed; “Everything and everyone that ever meant anything to me because you fucking lost it over some piece of shit, suicidal female robot you’re never even going to see again!! YOU STUPID. FUCKING. ASSHOLE!!!”

An oddly passive Faustus didn’t even try to stop her as she drove the handle into Basha’s reactor one last time. Steam erupted from the broken piece of machinery as a large crack materialized across it’s surface, all while the knife’s weak handle splintered and broke apart in her hands, cutting into her flesh and drawing blood. Hyde swore profusely as she turned and threw what remained her blade at the door behind Faustus in a final fit of rage, only missing his head by a mere half an inch. Refusing to get off of Basha or the bed they were both on, Hyde dug around the many pockets she had on the pair of pants she wore until she found a pair of tweezers and began picking at the shards of plastic embedded in her skin.

Faustus moved to the head of the bed, still more concerned than irritated as he took a closer look at Basha. Unbelievably, his eyes had begun rolling around in his skull as steam kept pouring out his newly cracked reactor. His face contorted in pain as he let out a feeble groan, half-consciously attempting to move while completely unaware he’d been tied down.

“So what the Hell was that about ‘Not Getting Anywhere’ just now? I didn’t quite catch what you said.” She asked snidely as she burrowed her tweezers into her own fingers, widening her cuts and making her bleeding worse. Faustus chose not to dignify her comment with an answer as Basha struggled to wake up.

“… Smell Fire…” They had to strain to hear him talk although what he was saying sounded like utter nonsense. “…Piano Music… Still here… No… No… I SAID NO!!” He shouted as he suddenly came back to. He tried to lurch forward as a lightning fast Hyde pulled a second knife from the inside of one of the combat boots she wore and brought it up under his nose, very nearly cutting it off before his head fell back on the mattress.

“Good morning, Princess.” She leered at him as he tried and failed to make sense of what was happening to him, clearly not happy he’d woken to a murderous Hyde instead of literally anyone else.

“What the actual fuck?” He bucked his hips in a rather pathetic attempt to get her to move. Hyde simply laughed as she pressed her fingers into the swollen and delicate skin that surrounded his reactor, causing him to wince and give up as he began to cough instead. “Get rid of the damned handcuffs and then get the Hell off of me.” He ordered once he’d caught his breath.

“I already got off.” Hyde replied, her gas mask barely containing the massive grin she obviously had plastered on her face. “And even IF I wanted to let you go, I couldn’t. We’re not done with you yet, Princess.”

With absolutely nothing to add to their increasingly juvenile exchange of words, an older Faustus with matching responsibilities had dropped his sand-filled satchel on the floor and proceeded to dig out a 10cc needle along with an unlabeled bottle of anaesthetic. He filled the syringe, pushing his thumb down on the plunger until the clear liquid dripped down the side of the hollow needle. He then returned to his spot at the head of the bed.

“I don’t know what that means.” Basha was complaining. “Where am I anyway? Where the Hell is everyone else?”

“Well, the good news is, thanks to yours truly right here, you’re NOT fucking dead yet. The not so good news? By the time we’re done, you’re going to fucking wish you were.” Hyde explained with a level of glee that bordered dangerously close to pure sadism.

“That’s enough.” Faustus said, finally cutting their argument short. “Hyde, get off the bed before I stick you with animal paralyser and go prep my kit while I get him ready for the next part.”

“Next part? What next part?” Basha glanced up, both thankful and apprehensive to see another familiar face standing there. “Where’s everyone else?” He asked again.

“Don’t worry; they all know you’re alive down here. You’re just not allowed to go back in the condition you’re all in.” Faustus held Basha’s head down as he injected the full content of his syringe directly into the boy’s neck. “I can almost promise you this won’t hurt.” He said, muting Basha’s protests as the medication spread and took hold of his systems.

“You know, you didn’t have to suck ALL the fun out of it.” Hyde pointed out from her spot on the ground once the full effects had kicked in and Basha had gone back to sleep. She’d put her tweezers away and slid her second knife back into her boot, freeing her hands to go rummaging through Faustus’ things.

“You can torture him to your hearts’ content once we’re done. In the meantime, we have a job to do.” Faustus sighed as he shook his head. “There should be wraps and gloves in there somewhere. If you’d like to find them, we can get started.”

“Yes, Boss.” Hyde conceded as she kept finding, cleaning, sanitizing and lining up the contents of his satchel on a nearby table barely suited to the task. After a moment, she quietly added; “Thanks for not reporting me.”

“Thanks for not reporting you to whom? And for what?” Faustus asked with honest curiosity as he removed his crimson-colored trench coat and hung it over the door. Hyde stared at him in disbelief until he gestured at her to keep going. “We don’t have all day Hyde, hurry it up. There should be a box at the bottom with all the spare parts we need for repairs.”

“Already found it.” Hyde blew the dust off the lid before she pulled on the latch and opened it, revealing the new modular reactor Faustus had brought along with him; “It this supposed to be an upgrade? Who’s stupid fucking decision was that?”

“That’s a stupid fucking question, Hyde.” Faustus called it as he put on a pair of latex gloves and carefully wrapped them around his wrists, so they wouldn’t come off. “It’s a quick procedure. There’s no need for pointless drama.”

It was Hyde’s turn to let out a long sigh, still thoroughly exasperated as she cleaned and sanitized her hands and covered her fingers in white bandages. She then followed her master’s lead; putting on latex gloves of her own and wrapping them firmly to her bare forearms; “Fine… But only because I can keep fucking with him when he wakes up again.”

“What you do when I’m not here is entirely up to you. You know better than to come crying to me if shit hits the fan.”

“Obviously.” Hyde set the box down at the end of the row of surgical equipment she’d previously laid out. “I’m ready. Princess is going to have Hell to pay for this one.”

Faustus reached over and handed his apprentice a screwdriver while he himself picked up a scalpel; “I’m going to detach his reactor and you’ll remove it once I’d done, understood?”

Hyde nodded as he moved around the bed so they were standing across from each other. Simultaneously and without another word, they both went to work, moving as quickly as they could while outside, the universe kept on howling bloody murder.

Just like the inside of Basha’s head.

So fucking still.