Chapter Seven

 “Septi,” Mes said, her voice hovering on the edge of Septi’s conciousness. “Septi, are you in there?” Something small hit her face and Septi blinked. She shook her head, trying to shake the clouds of thoughtlesness off.
“Wha-?” she asked, extremely confued. “She suddenly realized that Mes was staring at her worriedly. They were in the Rec room and the entirity of the surviving VI4C was sitting there, staring at her. Some of them were nursing cuts, bruises and the like, while others were bandaging up their comrades.
“You called us here for a meeting. What about?” Mes asked pointedly.
“Oracle is dead, and he chose me as your new commander. I am also aware that arangments need to be made to bury our dead. Please, search the hideout for the deceased and move them to the office. Steppe’s office.” Dimly Septi was aware that Steppe’s office was actually her office, and also that not everyone gathered there seemed entirely thrilled about her being the commander.
“Look at her… she’s so sickly looking…”
“She seems to be rather weak after what Steppe did to her…”
“She can’t be entirely sane. Not after everything Steppe did-” Murmurs like this filled the room. The one brave boy piped up, and in a heavy Texan accent, he spoke.
“What good’ll she do? She don’t look too good to me.” Septi stared at him tiredly. The bright, white lights threw everything into sharp contrast, making the boy’s already brilliantly orange hair glare against his pale skin.
“Do you have a problem with that?” Raram asked him, her voice slightly threatening. She gave him the filthiest glare she could muster, and he shrugged. Septi, however, continued to stare at him.
“Stand up,” she ordered, her voice betraying her exhaustion. He hestitated and she allowed one of her daggers to slip into her hand. “Now,” she added, a grim look on her face. He stood up, and must have replied, because no one else did.
“Yes ma’am,” his voice came mockingly from the plant beside her.
“Name?” Septi asked, trying not to show her surprise as she sheathed her dagger.
“Chaos.” This time his voice came from the couch she was leaning against.
‘Oh, that’s right.’ Septi’s thoughts were sharper now, but they were still distant. ‘I heard about him. He came to be with Dr. H… I think they’re related somehow…. distantly.’
“So, Chaos, you don’t think that I’m qualified to lead the VI4C?” Septi asked, knowing that she couldn’t fight him, not in the state that she was in, but she knew that she had to shut him up before his ideas affected the whole crowd.
“That’s about right,” the boy’s voice was now coming from the fireplace. “You look like you couldn’t even lead one person without passing out.”
“So you don’t like me because I look sick?” Septi asked, still staring at him. “Appearances can be decieving.” Chaos tilted his head and crossed his arms. Septi finally looked away from him, staring at the rest of the crowd. “And what about you all? Am I unfit to be commander?” A few of the members squirmed, but no one said anything.
“What do you think?” Mes asked, standing up. “I know that we have no better person for the job, not after the fight. I also think that you’re a sexist prat, Chaos, and you’d better shut up before I have to take you down myself.”
“Woah, where’d sexist come from?” he muttered, fighting the urge to roll his eyes at her.
“Thanks, Mes,” Septi said, running a hand over her face, fighting the urge to yawn. She hadn’t slept much in the last twenty-four hours, and her body was finally paying the price. “Now then, we need to take care of the dead and the wounded.” Septi glanced around. “And those of you who can will need to carry the bodies to the office. I will also need someone to take note of the dead as they’re brought in, for the record.”
‘Is there anything else?’ she thought wearily. ‘Oh, yeah, I probably should…’
“And one last thing,” she added as everyone started to head for the doors. As they all paused, she finished. “Don’t fight me.” The silence was deafening, and Septi decided to end the increasingly awkward silence. “Vite ment(Quickly)!” Raram and Mes exchanged glances, then Raram joined Septi and Mes.
“Septi, perhaps if there were teams, this task wouldn’t seem so daunting,” Mes said hesitantly.
“Alright,” Septi said. “Teams of two or three. Mes, you take Chaos. Raram, you go with Ryan. Ferinequell, you’re to take down the names of the deceased. I’ll haul bodies as well, and…. wow, there aren’t that many people left, are there?”
“No,” Ferinequell said, a tone of sadness in his voice. “So many have died in this fight.” He gently rested his hand on her shoulder in a brotherly fashion before leaving the room. Septi sighed and rubbed her forehead.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. I know, as I’ve seen it.”

“So many gone,” Septi said. They had retrieved the bodies from all corners of the hideout, and now she was looking at Ferinequell’s list. Nearly twenty names were on the list, far out numbering the survivors.

“Yes,” Ferinequell said quietly. “I believe that we will need to dispose of these bodies. only three of them have family. These ten we cannot track any remaining family for, and these other five have no remaining family.” Septi stared at the list.

“Contact the few families there are,” Septi said. “And the rest we’ll cremate, then bury.”

“Why not simply bury them?”

“We don’t have the room.”

“What about a cemetary?”

“Only if you can find me fifteen free plots, or the money to purchase said plots.”

“Alright. Point taken. Where will we burn the bodies?”

“I’m not sure,” Septi said, catching her head in her hands. “I don’t know… I just don’t know…” Hot tears stung her eyes, and she fought to keep control of herself.

“And what about the wounded?” he asked.

“Call that Guinavere Evens,” Septi said. “She may have contacts that could help us.” Septi stifled a yawn as she dried her eyes.

“Septi, don’t try to think about this now. You’re far too tired,” Ferinequell said, leaning down beside where Septi was sitting, and gently lifted her face. “Look at me, Septi. Why don’t you just go to bed? I think I can keep the fort held down while you sleep.”

“But the bodies! They’ll begin to decompose! They’ll stink up the whole hideout!” Septi said, feeling very young and fragile, with a huge burden weighing on her shoulders.

“Septi, get to sleep! You need to take care of yourself so that you don’t join them!” A weak laugh slipped from Septi’s lips and she wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

“I’m so sorry, Chuck,” she said, giving him a small smile. “You shouldn’t have to see me like this.”

“Rene,” he said, briefly and awkwardly hugging her. “Don’t ever apologize for crying.Crying shows that you’re still human. That you still feel, that you hurt, and that you’re real.”

“But doesn’t crying show weakness?” Septi asked shortly.

“Don’t you believe that the proof of your humanity is a weakness. Septi, you are not weak!” Septi met his gaze.

“Can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” he said, looking slightly confused. He watched her, concern etched on his face, along with a brotherly look.

“I don’t think I’m Rene anymore,” Septi said, staring down at her hands, which she was wringing. “It’s like she’s dead and gone. After all that’s happened recently- I mean, I’ve been Septi for about four years. But I never really thought of myself as wholey Septi. I guess i didn’t really change till just these last couple months.”

“You feel that you’re no longer Renee anymore?” Ferunequell asked her, still staring at her thoughtfully green eyes looking into her blue.

“I guess technically, she’s still there,” Septi said, gnawing on her lip, trying to explain. “But I’m detatched from her.”

“You have been through quite a bit in the last couple of months. I don’t suppose it’s any wonder that you’ve changed, and in the process lost that part of yourself.”

“It’s like I’m becoming someone else. Normally Septi and Renee, they, I, am all one. But now, it’s like Renee’s died… She no longer exists. She’s a person of the past, and now Septi’s more noticeable than ever. And Chuck, these changes… they’re scaring me.”

“Septi, I repeat, go to bed,” Ferinequell said firmly. “You’ve worked yourself up. You need to go to sleep.”

“But I have so much left to do!” She protested again, this time half heartedly.

“I’ll take care of locating the families, searching for grave sites, checking our funds, and finding a doctor who would be willing to help us.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Septi, I’m sure. Now go to bed.”

“Yes, sir,” Septi said, leaving the office. Wandering through the halls of the mansion to a guest room, she yawned, and found herself looking foreward to sleeping in a real bed. Collapsing on the bed, she vaguely considered takiong off her filthy uniform, but was asleep before she could do it.

Septi opened her eyes. The room was dark, and the bed was soft. She sat up and glanced at the clock on the bedside table. IT read 6:30 AM, and Septi rolled out of bed. She let herself into the adjoining bathroom, where she paused to look in a mirror, glaring at the reflection.

Her hair was matted and filthy, still in the braid she had put it in a month ago. Septi sighed, and returned to the bed room, where she located a pair of scissors. Staring into the mirror, she raised a trembeling hand and cut the braid off below the hairband.

Then she forced the hairband out of her hair, breaking it in the process. Biting her lip, she finger combed it and sighed. She then she turned to the shower. Hesitating, she grapped her set of lock picks, and headed out to the VI4C’s garage, where she let herself into her car, pulling out a backpack with a change of clothes, a hair brush, and serveral other items of personal hygene.

Returning to the bathroom, she took a quick shower and changed into her clean clothes. Once she was dressed, she turned her attention to her hair. Tugging the brush out of the bag, where she had left it, she started to work it through her matted hair.

“Darn you, Steppe!” She grunted as she hit a huge knot. “You locked me up with absolutely no chance for me to take care of  my hygene. So now I have to deal with consequences.” When she finally managed to get her hair smooth again, she stared at her reflection in dismay. Her hair was all different lengths, making her head look like a mop.

“Oh crap,” she muttered. “This is a wonderfull mess.” She glanced at the clock again, and sighed. It had taken her an hour and a half to get to this point, and the hideout had been silent. Now it was 8 AM, and she knew that several people would be up by now.

Tugging her hair into a pony-tail, she decided to get Mes’s help. Heading through the halls, she quickly located Mes’s room, and tapped on the door. The door opened after a couple of taps, revealing a groggy Mes.

“What d’you want, Septi?” she asked sleepily, her voice a cross between a moan and a whine.

“I was wondering if you could help me with my hair. It was kinda a mess after being in a braid for months, then suddenly being cut and brushed and washed and all that. Anyway, I just need to not look like a mop.” Mes, who had been staring at her confusedly sighed and smiled slightly.

“Let me see,” she said, looking slightly more awake. Septi hestantly pulled the hair band out of her hair and Mes stepped up, examining it. “Sure, c’mon in.” Septi stepped in and sat down on Mes’s desk chair.

“Thanks,” Septi said greatfully. “I was so afraid that you’d say no.”

“I wouldn’t,” Mes’s voice sounded slightly muffled as she was leaning into her closet. “C’mon, Septi. As amusing as it would be, I’m not cruel.” She returned from the closet with a pair of scissors, a table cloth, and a plastic poncho.

She handed Septi the poncho, and spread the table cloth on the floor. Setting the scissors on the desk, she stood in front of Septi with her arms crossed.

“You’ll need to stand, so I can put the chair on the tablecloth,” she said. “And you’ll need to put on the poncho,unless you wanna look like something’s been shedding on you.” Septi did as Mes told her, feeling slightly foolish.

“So, you’re just gonna make it all the same length?” Septi asked.

“Sure,” Mes said, moving the chair, then shoving Septi down in it. She picked up the scissors and approached Septi. Septi gritted her teeth and closed her eyes.

“Why so tense, Septi?” Mes asked, begining her work. “It’s just hair, and I’ve done this before.” Septi bit her lip and forced herself to loosen up.

“Sorry,” Septi muttered as Mes took section by section f hair and trimmed it. It took Mes half an hour to get Septi’s hair to the same length and looking decent again.

Setting down the scissors, Mes turned to face Septi, picking up a mirror from her desk/vanity. Septi quickly examined her hair, then smiled at Mes, who was now pawing through her drawers, looking for clothes.

“Merci,” Septi said quickly, setting the mirror down and slipping out of the poncho. “You have got no idea how much I appreciate this.”

“I can imagine. That was, how d’you say it, a horrible hair cut.”

“And your accent is affreux (horrid).”

“Excuse me, I don’t speak French,” Mes said, giving Septi a ‘duh’ look.

“Obviously,” Septi said, rolling her eyes, knowing that this would provoke Mes. Septi’s prediction didn’t fall short of it’s mark.

“Geez, give a girl a break, will you?” Mes asked, giving Septi a look from where she crouched on the floor, pawing through the bottom drawer. She threw the shirt that she was holding at Septi, who caught it, and wagged a finger at Mes.

“Mechant, mechant (naughty, naughty),” she said, clucking her tongue slightly.

“Stop now,” Mes said, standing up. “What’d you say about me?”

“Oh, nothing much,” Septi said elusively.

“What. Did. You. Say?!” Mes asked, her eyes flashing dangerously.

“Only that you’re naughty,” Septi said sweetly.

“You’re a fine one to talk,” Mess said, relaxing slightly.

“Oui, but that doesn’t mean that you should follow in my footsteps, now, does it?”

“Honestly, Septi, you should wait and see.”

“Oh, and why would that be?” Septi said, exhaderating her French accent.

“Because I just remembered something!” Mes’s eyes were wide, and she was staring at Septi like she had never seen her before.

“And what might that be?” Septi asked, dropping the exhagerated accent.

“You’re the commander of the VI4C,” Mes said.

“The American branch, yeah.”

“You’re the commander!” Mes said, getting more excited.

“I think I get that tiny little bitty fact,” Septi said, begining to get a little annoyed by the repetitvity.

“Septi, you’re only eighteen!”

“So what? I can do this thing, and I will.”

“You’re still in school. I mean, you’ll be commuting everyday. Your life is just gonna be so hectic!”

“It already is. And I was actually thinking of moving into the hideout. Besides, as it is, my graduation is gonna be postponed a bit, cus of the time I had to take off this semester.”

“Septi, there are still bodies to bury,” Mes said, switching tracks rapidly, and not batting an eyelash.

“Yeah… I hate to think of what they must be like by nnow,” Septi said, thoughtfully.

“Agh! Septi, that’s disgusting!”

“But, I mean, bodies can decompose within a week if they aren’t treated. Sooner, if it’s warmer.”

“Septi, I don’t want to think about this.”

“I wonder….” Septi smiled slightly at her idea, staring off into space.

“Uh-oh, Septi has that look.”

“Uh-huh. I wonder where I could get… though tarps would work too. And there’s that entrance to the closed off sewer in our basement…”

“Oh dear,” Mes said, watching Septi worriedly.

“It would be a gruesome job, boxing them, but I think we could manage it.”

“Do what?” Me asked, sounding more than a little apprehensive.

“Well, if the bodies decompose, they’d be smaller. We wouldn’t have to have too much land to bury them on. If we could let the bodies decompose, in the disused sewer tunnel that we can access from the basement of the building, then we wouldn’t have to worry about where we’ll burn the bodies.”

“Great. But that still doesn’t answer the question of where we’ll bury them.”

“Basement. We can’t exactly bury them in the backyard.”

“Septi, you’re sounding like a horror novel this morning.”

“Your point being?”

“I don’t know if I even had one.”

“Alrighty then,” Septi said with a sigh, crossing her arms. “Does my plan sound like it may work?”

“Sure, except how woud we get the bones into the graves without seperating them?”

“Boxes. Simple, wooden boxes. Similar to caskets, but not as large, nor as heavy.”

“And shouldn’t we mark who is burried where?”

“Maybe carve their names on the box and leave markers on top of the grave site. Not gravestones, but something.”

“What about the sewer tunnel? Won’t it smell?”

“Yes, but we can work on that part of the problem another time.”

“Alright,” Mes stared at Septi, then tilted her head. “You certainly have this all planned out.”

“I try,” Septi said, running a hand over her face. “Now all I have to do is let Ferinequell know.”

“Have fun with that,” Mes said. Just then Mes’s alarm clock went off. “I thought I turned this thing off?”

“You must not have,” Septi said, watching Mes fiddle with the buttons. “Though why did you set it on a Saturday?”

“I just didn’t want to sleep too late,” Mes said, turning it off and sighing. “I should probably get a shower.”

“Yeah, probably,” Septi said, quietly, slipping onver to the door and letting herself out.

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