Chapter Forty-Four

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It was only once the ground became steady once more that she pushed away from him and swallowed down big mouthfuls of air.

"It might have been smart to warn you." Nicolas observed.

"You think?" She shot him a nasty glare as she straightened up. Two doors stood before them in the tight, cylindrical enclosure. The flying camera from before whizzed after them and hovered near Nicholas like an obedient pet awaiting instructions.

"Let us through, Corina."

"Yes, Mr. Wilson. Access granted."

"What is that thing?" Rachel asked.

"It's an artificial intelligence device. It's programed to recognize me and follow my instructions and mine alone." He said the last part in a particular tone that clearly said she shouldn't be getting any ideas of using it against him. She scrunched up her nose with distaste. "It helps me keep some order around here."

"Is she—it that thing what controls the people?"

"Something like that. Allow me to show you." He motioned for her to go first out into a long, brightly lit corridor. She took a tentative step off the platform and upon seeing that the ground was steady, she strode forward with more confidence.

"Give us a view to the lab." Nicolas said. "Please."

A pair of chairs erupted from the floor. Nicolas motioned for her to sit and she didn't object in order to give her body and mind a much needed rest.

The entirety of the wall before them peeled away slowly, revealing a surgical room of sorts beyond. People were lying on hospital beds, their eyes closed, steady heartbeats and breathing monitored on screens next to them.

People in lab coats moved around the room quietly. Some held sharp objects in their blue-gloved hands, others scribbled notes furiously onto clipboards that floated in the air.

"What is this? What are they doing to those people?"

"They are looking for a cure."

"A cure?" she asked. She shifted in her seat to look at Nicolas. He stared wistfully into the room, his eyes crinkled at the sides. She wondered what it was about him that gave off the illusion of goodness, even though all his actions thus far had been anything but.

"I thought you said you already had a cure for E-91. Isn't that why I'm still here?"

"Not for E-91, Rachel. For the Mark."

"I'm sorry, did you say for the Mark?"

"Yes, that is exactly what I said." She sank back into her chair, trying desperately to make sense of everything. A throbbing sensation began to build behind her eyes and at the base of her nose. Why would Nicolas want a cure for the Mark? Did he plan on freeing the people?

"Let me explain what I mean." He stood and pointed at one of the patients lying still on a cot.

"He recently received the Mark, the real Mark, the original design. The way it works," He motioned to the floating gadget named Corina. It whizzed down to him and he pressed a few buttons onto it so that the adjacent wall revealed another type of room.

Inside this room, a young man, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, was lying in a white chair, his forehead and neck strapped down with black belts. A doctor worked meticulously over his forehead, a red little laser ingraining a barcode onto his forehead.

Next, she took a vial of something, a greyish-blue liquid that shone almost metallic in the fluorescent lighting. She took her syringe and propped the young man's eye open with her thumb and forefinger.

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