“… Speaking of ‘Broken Hearts’…” Hyde’s sudden words, spoken with the clarity and tact of a bullet straight to the face, had pretty damned well near given Faustus a conniption. Unbeknownst to Hyde, it had been the tinkling sound of piano, exactly as Basha had heard, that had returned the Elder Half-Human to semi-consciousness a few short days earlier. Free of their Prince’s emotionally crippling visions following the Ezramatheia’s untimely demise however, Faustus had almost immediately recognized the tune as centuries old, Earth Music.
“My grandmother collected antiques. She gave me this music box as a present when I decided to leave home.” Shortly before the Mad Maestro’s impromptu and over-dramatic arrival on board their ship, a much younger and still entirely lucid Eremis had once attempted to explain to him, “Even on a bad… All I have to do is open the cover and it warms my heart right up… So I always have it somewhere close by.”
“Anything that helps you with the pain, I suppose.” Unfamiliar with each other and what they would eventually become, an oblivious Faustus had more or less shrugged her off; unaware of the impact his words were having on her. Distraught by his answer, Eremis had raised her perfectly normal, hazel eyes towards him, pursing her lips as her eyebrows had slowly furrowed downwards over her nose. Right there, she had stood, in complete and utter silence, staring at his blank face until, overwhelmed and confused, she had pointed his out of her bedroom door with one of her small, porcelain-like index finger and, “I think you should go now.” She had ordered him, so quietly he had barely even heard her speak.
Now, ever since Mercy had helped bring him from near-death all the way back to their present timeline, Faustus had been unable to find the music’s source or figure out how to make it stop. The ceaseless, lyric-less tune had haunted him from the small town most of the survivors had found themselves in, all the way up and around the narrow and treacherous mountain path to Hyde’s rather cleverly hidden sub-cellar. And even then… Instead of addressing what he still hadn’t truly believed was a problem, he’d chosen to swallow his emotions and bite his tongue. He had allowed himself the distraction of watching his apprentice, in all of her fury induced glory, hammering away at Basha’s modulator with the handle of her jagged hunting knife. If only for the brief moment it had lasted, seeing his pupil unleashing her anger upon their unsuspecting Prince had made him feel… ‘Better’… about both himself and his own, steadily mounting frustrations.
Luckily for him, the petite, dark-haired, self-mutilating cyborg, reminding Faustus a little too much of himself, had been far too angry and distracted with Basha to notice how tired and also distracted her superior still was… So she had never attempted to point out how his usually fast and expert hands, beginning to grow cold and numb from inexplicable blood loss, were becoming increasingly slow and clumsy with his own surgical tools. As impressed as he’d been incensed at her rather alarming display of sheer ignorance, Faustus had once again chosen not to explain himself. This time, he had done what any other ‘Good Doctor’ and ‘Proper Professional’ would’ve done; he had rewarded her silence with military grade painkillers and infinitely more muscle relaxants than either she, or Basha, should have ever needed.
So of course, no sooner had she pocketed her present had Hyde decided to go ahead and slam him with her viciously specific questions anyway, “Who do you think got upgraded first? Basha… Or Eremis?”
It had very nearly been the fucking death of him all over again. One tiny word and the soft piano music he was still hearing had exploded into an infernal cacophony of screeching, ear-shredding violins and guitars accompanied by crashing cymbals and the violent beating of drums. The ensuing flashback had been more than enough to send his pounding heart racing up his throat in a desperately painful and futile attempt at reaching his lips.
At least, thanks to Hyde’s help, he was able to remember when and where he had heard that particular piece of classical music last.
“Neither actually… But since we’re not going to discuss that here, we’ll stick with Eremis.” Already preoccupied and now even further distracted by his tingling, purple extremities, Faustus had uttered the words faster than his mind had fully processed them. Having never given Hyde a ‘Pass’, Faustus had yet to introduce her to the Mad Maestro’s Twisted Court or indoctrinate her into their presently shattered hive-mind. He was fully aware she was unable to hear any of the tortured music being haphazardly played across their collective background. Her simple mind was simply asking questions out of not so simple curiosity.
As such, with his already dwindling patience being drowned out by the increasing racket, Faustus had decided to terminate the conversation; he’d just as simply turned around and left the room.
“WAY TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, FAUSTUS!!” Hyde had shouted back at him as a welcome, still none the wiser to his situation.
“I did answer your question. It just wasn’t what you wanted to hear.” Faustus had managed to keep his voice flat, quickening his step in an attempt to mask how heavy and sluggish he truly felt.
“Who was the first to get upgraded if it wasn’t Basha or Eremis?” As persistent as she was stubborn, Hyde clearly had no idea of the effect her words were having on her perpetually emotionless boss as once more she’d asked about Eremis… And once more, Faustus’ thoughts had been yanked back and sent spiraling down what felt like his own personal hell-hole.
“That’s not what you asked.” While at first Faustus had found himself somewhat suspecting the quiet, piano-like music had been re-introduced at the back of his thoughts by the Mad Maestro, Hyde’s questions were making him realize it couldn’t possibly have been HIM who had all but obliterated his own, carefully crafted hive-mind. Neither had he unapologetically left his own courts in ragged tatters while the Ezramatheia itself had unexpectedly exploded into a ball of flames and buried itself in broken pieces amongst the nearby mountains.
So, ripping a page straight from his students’ book, Faustus had dropped a personal question of his own on her head, hoping he would throw her on a loop just long enough to bridge the gap between himself and the sturdy, wooden doors ahead. They’d both been equally amazed at how well they kept holding up against the sandstorm still raging on the other side.
It had worked a little too well. The more Hyde had talked, the more it had begun to dawn on him… It hadn’t been the Maestro who had eaten Eremis alive after her attempt at joining death… But with his silver tongue acting as both a blessing and a curse, he’d still needed to hear himself say it before, to his growing horror, he had finally understood exactly what was happening to both himself and the Maestro’s missing vanguard… His highness’ own, personally dead knights in currently cracked and absolutely useless fucking armor.
“Yes, well, let’s say Eremis never got the option. He simply went crazy and used her as a guinea pig, rationalizing she had no will to live anyway so it didn’t matter.” Of course, Eremis had already been long gone by the time Faustus had heard all his flimsy fucking excuses.
“Who’s ‘he’? You mean Big Brother?” Hyde, as rattled and confused as Eremis had been on that fateful day she’d tried playing her music for him, had kept attempting to pry… But with his god-awful predicament growing worse and his time being cut abysmally short, Faustus’ face had turned to stone, and he’d rather awkwardly fished out his keys from his pockets, thanking all the suns and stars in the infinite universe Hyde still wasn’t noticing his icy blue hands.
Finally outside, his entire chest feeling like it was filling up with lead-laced cement while his arms and legs turned to rust, Faustus had to force himself to keep moving down the mountain, never having guessed that the trip back would be so much worse than his journey upwards. Taking what felt like eons to break through the endless, screeching sandstorm, he kept heading towards the nearest town until, no longer able to stand up, he stumbled off the path and found himself a comfortable enough spot on the ground to sit on before his knees gave out completely. Leaning his back up against the rigid trunk of a tree for support, he filled up his lungs with all the newly found fresh air he could fit in his collapsing lungs and exhaled slowly, already feeling himself returning to his regular senses while, at the back of his head, as if anticipating his movements, the music suddenly cut out.
As always, he knew it was only behind closed eyelids where he would be able to find it and behind closed eyelids he did. The Maestro’s hive-mind. Not for the faint of heart or head even in optimal conditions and now even Faustus could barely tell that’s what it was, never mind figure out where he actually stood. Cracked walls, covered in peeling, colorless paint made for an incredibly eerie decor while endlessly looping hallways, lined with broken and fading light bulbs and blanketed in thick, black, acrid-smelling smoke made it nearly impossible to see anything past two feet… And pretty damn well near as difficult to breathe.
Not that there was anything left back here for anyone to see. Faustus already knew the sulphur-smelling smog blocking most of his view was hiding row upon row of locked doors… Just as well as he knew no one but the Maestro could open any of them without the proper keys. Even Faustus and Mercy, the Maestro’s left and right hands respectively, were being denied access to entry, making the music being played that much more perplexing. Absolutely not a single fucking thing should have been able to make it through all that literal mind fog. Unless… Of course… As Hyde had so brutally reminded him not even a few moments ago…
“I know you’re still down here Mordred!! Stop hiding and show yourself!!”
Hopelessly wishful thinking at it’s finest; Faustus was able to witness firsthand his words reaching the fog wall, barely causing a ripple there before sinking down to the floor and evaporating. It was only when he’d dropped his gaze down after his sentence that he spotted it… The elusive answer to the question he’d never asked… Right there under his combat boots.
They were wires.
Multitudes of multi-colored wires, snaking across the checkered and broken tiles strewn across the floor. They slithered under the closed doorways, climbed the walls, wrapped themselves around the light fixtures and covered the ceiling, hissing and spewing out sparks almost as loudly as the cracks of a well-crafted whip being handled by a seasoned expert.
Faustus, far from happy at the sight, sighed and shook his head. The first to become ‘upgraded’ as Hyde had so preciously called it… The very first to bow down to the Maestro and join his ranks… Their long-suffering Mordred had essentially handed their Master the Ezramatheia on a silver platter. He’d then lost what little sanity he’d had left to the hive-mind… Long before Faustus had appeared, rightly deposed of him and taken over his position. Now, still recovering from the crash, it seemed Mordred was making it clear that not only was he still alive as well somewhere, he was also attempting to regain some control over his ‘Pet’.
“Everyone knows Eremis tried to kill herself anyway. They should be happy now. I made her useful.” Had been his actual words to Faustus back then.
“You can’t just go around doing that to people without their consent, Mordred, it’s unethical. Not to mention sadistic and fucking insane.”
“Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure I did.” Mordred’s laugh had sounded closer to cackling. “Did you even take a look at her? She’s absolutely beautiful now and I promise, she’s NEVER going to break again.”
With too many pointless words now floating around the words he’d already spent years trying to forget, Faustus had enough sense to crouch down and take a closer look at the wires. He took a note of the direction they seemed to be coming from, took in another deep breath and once again opened his eyes to real life. Feeling more like himself, he slowly stretched himself out as he cleared out all the voices from his thoughts, his heart beating almost normally as the pain and heaviness he’d been feeling in his arms and legs slowly disappeared.
“Thanks for the Love Note, Mordred.” Faustus breathed to himself as he stood himself up on his own two feet. “I can promise you too… We’ll all see each other again very, very soon.”