Chapter 1 – Page 3

“It seems that Number 7 has somehow disappeared from his room. We’re not sure how he managed to, but Director Nero would like to have him found as quickly as possible. We need your permission to search your labs.”

“About that, there’s no need to continue searching. I just happen to have him right here next to me. I don’t know the reason, but I found him just now in the morgue.”

“The morgue?”

“Also, Julia, tell Nero I need to speak with him.”

“Will do, Dr. Hektate, though i would appreciate it if you told me how you found him afterwards. It sounds like an interesting story. The morgue, really. Anyway, I’ll send Manti up for Number 7. Go ahead and make your way to Director Nero’s office. I’ll inform him you are coming.”

“Thanks Julia.”

“Jo,” Seven said quietly, “I don’t want to go.”

“You have to, though.”

“Then, can I stay for just a bit longer?”

“Seven, this is a nonnegotiable matter. You already snuck out of your room. Enough is enough. I can’t allow you to stay here any longer.”

Seven stared at Dr. Hektate. His eyebrows drew together, his eyes watered, and his lips bunched up. He took a deep breath, allowing the crocodile tears to spill over in waterfalls before beginning to cry at the top of his lungs.

Hektate was appalled. He didn’t know what to do. Seven had never thrown a tantrum before. Not once. Hektate couldn’t have imagined that his first would be as ear bursting as this.

“Seven! What on Earth has gotten into you?”Hektate yelled over Seven. Almost impossibly, Seven’s screaming grew louder and more grating in response.

Finally having had enough, Hektate roared, “BE QUIET NOW, SEVEN!” Seven flinched and grew silent. He stared at the floor without daring to look up at Hektate.

“You will go to your room, and you will stay there. You will reflect on your actions. You will not be receiving dinner. If you still cannot behave yourself, then I will have to rethink providing your breakfast and lunch tomorrow as well. Understood?”

The morgue grew silent as Hektate stared at the boy.

“Two,” the boy whispered. He looked over to the small body floating in the capsule. “Jo hates me.”

The silence grew to a stifling point.

“Doctor,” a voice sounded, and the unnatural silence shattered. Hektate twitched, then turned towards the opened door.

“Manti. Good. You’re here. I’ll leave Number 7 to you, then. I’ll be taking my leave.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hektate walked out of the room with a frown on his face. Gathering his thoughts, he walked to Director Nero’s office, He took a deep breath to settle himself and entered after knocking briefly.

“You never wait for me to respond, always barging in like that.”

“Sorry,” Hektate said as he padded across the thick carpet and slid into a leather cushioned couch.

“We both know you’re not. You manage to do it every single time. What are you here for this time?”

“Blunt as always, are we, Nero? What happened to the friendly chats we used to have?”

“Friendly chats? You and I have very different memories, apparently. Talk. You’re wasting my time.”

“Yeesh. How harsh.” Nero glared at him. “Alright, alright. I’ll talk. You’d think I was being tortured. You heard that I found Number 7 in the morgue, right?”

“Yes,” Nero said. Hektate paused for a second.

“Nero, are you sure we should be doing this? I mean, we’re starting the more active experiments tomorrow. We haven’t gotten this far with a clone before, and it’s not going to be pretty. That little boy is going to be in a lot of pain from now on. He may even break from it. Are you really sure that we should be playing with life like this?”

“Johan. Stop stalling. Get on with it.”

“Not even listening to my heartfelt pleas, huh? Fine then. Nero, do you know if anyone has told Number 7 about the other numbers or even Alicia?”

“No. No one has spoken about it. They were ordered not to. It was determined that it would have too much of a detrimental impact. It would just be a hassle to deal with.”

“He knows about them.”

“What do you mean?”

“He was in the morgue where their bodies are stored. Nero, he went specifically to that morgue. We have plenty of other morgues, several of which are much closer to his room. He could have gone to any of them. In fact, why did he even go to a morgue? Any other room would have been just fine. But no, he chose to travel across the compound to the only morgue where the numbers are kept. Do you think that is just a coincidence?”

“Honestly, it very well could have been. That doesn’t tell me he knows about them.”

“No, you wouldn’t think that was enough. There might be a leak.”

“Johan Hektate. I will not have you implying that one of my employees is selling information.” Nero’s eyes grew very cold.

“Nero, hear me out. When I found Number 7, do you know what the first thing he said to me was? He told me he found them. Then he pointed at Alicia and told me it was his Mom.”

“What?”

“He even listed off the other numbers. Every single one of them. Does he even know how to count? I don’t think we ever taught him that. But even stranger was that he used them like names. He told me Two liked talking to him and that Six told him about the morgue. He even got their genders correct. Nero, how do you explain that?”

Nero grew very still. “You think it’s a leak? Why tell the boy?”

“It could be. But honestly, that’s a good question. I do have another theory, but you’re not going to like it.”

“Tell me.”

“Number 7 might be psychic. He might be a medium.”

“Johan. You think he can talk to the dead,” Nero said in a monotone voice.

“I don’t know how else to explain it. Do you? And if it’s true, it’s infinitely better than a leak.”

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