When Markus arrived outside the temporary infirmary on Deck 2, he found Zoey and Athena waiting for him. The two women had an aura around them that made Markus feel pressured, even though nobody else walking by in the hall seemed to feel it. The way they looked at him made him feel like he was a troublesome child that had gotten into something he shouldn't have...
A door quietly slid open, and the three of them entered into the room that Zoey had set up for Volaia after she had been brought back. The temporary infirmary had been split into two sections. The side of the room they entered into was empty aside from some chairs and a table, and faced a glass wall through which they could see into the adjacent portion of the room where Volaia lay on a medical bed. The glass wall itself was filled with layers of flickering, holographic information.
Zoey had set most of this up in a hurry, so it was a little rudimentary, but the information being displayed on the wall was information captured by the medical instruments that she had built into the table when she had fabricated it. It was an old Gaian design, but it would suffice until she had time to improve the design.
As soon as Markus saw Volaia lying on the bed on the other side of the glass wall, he couldn't take his eyes off her. His little sister looked exactly like she had the last time he had seen her! It was as if the years that had passed for him had not affected her in the least!
"Why is she so young?" He asked incredulously. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine. Her body is recovering," Zoey replied. What she didn't say was that the girl's body had absorbed a significant amount of radiation, presumably from the Blood Soul Crystal she had been trapped in. Zoey was not sure how she had survived as long as she did, but she guessed that the Chaos entity sleeping within the small body had something to do with that. That said, until the Mittra Regen energy was finished slowly repairing the damage to her body, the girl would remain asleep.
Athena then spoke, "The Blood Soul Crystal she was trapped inside… Anyone that gets trapped in one of those horrors will have their body shredded in a million different ways until they are nothing more than a vengeful spirit being tortured for eternity. That is what a Blood Soul Crystal is designed to do, and she is lucky to have survived at all."
Markus trembled at Athena's words, his fists clenched tightly at his side.
"Cornelius will pay for what he did to her!" He growled out through clenched teeth. "What kind of brother would…"
"You won't have to worry about your brother," Zoey cut in. "When we were on the city, we had a little altercation. Long story short, some things happened, and he was killed by the brunette woman that was by his side before. She seemed to hold some kind of grudge against him."
Markus raised his eyebrows at the news. "He's dead then…" He murmured after a moment of thought. Strangely, he felt no anger at hearing that, only relief. The world was a better place with that menace gone. At least now Volaia and he would be free of his claws for good.
He also vaguely remembered the brunette that had been with his brother. She had been another one of his puppets, his personal plaything. No doubt she had suffered enough to fill several lifetimes in Cornelius's hands. He hoped that she would find some solace in Cornelius's death.
Zoey and Athena had carefully been watching Markus's reaction to the news of Cornelius's death. How he reacted would determine how they would treat him going forward. Surprisingly, the man seemed not only to feel relief when he heard the news, he actually looked happy! The two women followed his gaze and realized that he was considering his sister's safety, and was happy to know that she was now safe.
Athena and Zoey shared a look, confirming each other's thoughts. This had gone better than they had hoped it would. The way Cornelius Rellen had treated his family had worked out for them in the end by turning his own brother against him. Now that they had that sorted out, it was time to move on.
"Your sister has some unique circumstances, and will be staying with us for a while under my protection," Athena said, drawing Markus's attention back to her. "You can see her as much as you want once she wakes up, but the rest is non-negotiable until she can take care of herself."
Markus nodded, then hesitantly asked, "Is it okay if I stay here with her for now? I… I don't want to leave her again."
Neither Zoey nor Athena had anything against his request, so they left Markus behind in the infirmary and exited back to the hallway.
"I guess that went well, all things considered," Zoey said, and Athena nodded in agreement. "I'm going to check on the other stray we picked up, do you want to come along?"
"Sure," Athena replied with a nonchalant shrug, following Zoey as she headed to the second makeshift infirmary that she had set up.
The two of them soon found themselves in a room pretty much identical to the first one, but with a different patient lying on the medical bed on the other side of the glass wall. Unlike the previous patient they had observed, the blonde woman laying on the bed was in the nude, but with a half-dome of fogged glass hiding her body from view. The glass wall between them and the woman was almost completely filled with a massive amount of medical data, another difference from the previous room they had been in.
"So she is the one that killed the older Rellen?" Athena asked out of curiosity.
"Well, Max did most of the work, she just finished the job," Zoey replied as she studied the holographic information before her.
"Okay, I know you told me last night that's what happened, but I still don't understand how that little boy beat someone who was at Rank 8. Even I would have to work my ass off to bring down someone on that level," Athena remarked with a raised eyebrow.
"To be honest, I have no idea myself," Zoey replied. "I have yet to ask him about it, but it likely has something to do with what happened when he was trapped on the city. Whatever happened while he was trapped, it definitely made him stronger. I mean, he was already strong for his age, but now it's a little ridiculous."
"I'm sure he'll tell you of all people, he is rather attached to you after all," Athena said with a knowing smile.
Zoey rolled her eyes at the taller woman and said, "He's just a boy. He'll change as he grows older."
"Whatever you say hun," Athena retorted with a widening grin. "Just don't get mad when I say I told you so!" She laughed at Zoey's exasperated expression, then moved her attention back to the woman and asked, "So what's so special about her?"
In response to her question, Zoey cleared a section of the glass wall and projected a video onto it from her interface. The video was mostly from the perspective of Taigen's Eve after he had left the Stella Tenebris to chase after the woman. Athena watched in curiosity, then in shock as she witnessed the events that happened after the woman had entered the machine factory.
"By Sethrii! She was turned into a machine?!" Athena exclaimed after seeing the end of the video.
"More or less," Zoey replied, still focused on the data being displayed before her. "Whatever that machine did to her, it was extensive and will take me a while to fully understand. Her body has been modified and changed almost down to the cellular level, and even her brain has been re-wired somehow…"
"I'm going to pretend to know what most of that means, and trust you know what you're doing by bringing her onto your ship?" Athena questioned her friend.
Zoey shrugged, then said, "I don't know the extent of it yet, but the process she was put through was not fully completed. The work done to her mind has somehow locked the original memories away, basically turning her into a blank slate. It's like they were preparing her to become a host for someone or something. Needless to say, she will be staying asleep until I understand what has been done to her."
"You're the captain on this ship hun," Athena said with a smile. "Whatever you say goes."
Not long after, the two of them left the infirmary and meandered through Deck 2 as they checked on the crew. The atmosphere on board was understandably somber, but the looks in everyone's eyes still showed hope and promise for the future. The Asurai clan carried more sorrow than most people could hope to bear, but they had been tempered by the flames of adversity to become a fine steel that could withstand the pressure of their woes.
They would keep moving forward for as long as they had the means to do so.