Previously: This One is Mine
“She’s right, you know,” said Sky Prince, lifting himself up on one elbow. He dabbed his mouth with the sleeve of his other arm. “You need to get out of here. My dad will kill you.”
Snake-Boy sat on the ground beside Sky Prince. “I’m not leaving you here. You’re too weak. One of my brothers could come along. Or ten of them.”
“What do you care?”
Snake-Boy shrugged. He continued sitting. The concept of sarcasm was unfamiliar to him. The concept of ungratefulness was unfamiliar to him. The concept of arrogance was unfamiliar to him. He was, however, quite familiar with the beauty of Sky Prince’s eyes, which he had been staring into since the first time he saw them.
Sky Prince looked away. “You’re creeping me out.”
Snake-Boy said, “What does that mean?”
“Don’t stare at me like that.” He said it gently, though, quietly. Weirdly.
They watched the junior heroes mop up the remaining snake-brothers on the other side of the Plaza as the sun came up. Toward the end, there were only a couple of snake-brothers left, and the twenty or so young trainees seemed to be playing with them, drawing it out, just for the sake of the torment.
“They’re new. First time most of them have had an opportunity to crimebust,” said Sky Prince.
“Was this your first time, too?”
Sky Prince sneered. “Don’t be silly. I’m the son of Sky Lord. I’m special. I get to go out and crimebust all the time.”
“I’m special, too. You said so. The dog-girl did, too.”
“I said you were different, not special.” Sky Prince fell back off of his elbow, onto his back. “What you really are is defective. It happens with SerpenTerrorist’s technology every so often. You know, he sends an attack wave of you guys every couple of months, and there’s always one or two who don’t pick up on the programming. Who aren’t evil henchmen. Who have minds of their own. Souls or whatever. Like you.”
“What do you do with them?”
“I already told you. We kill them.” Sky Prince coughed. He put his hand up to his mouth. He looked at his hand: no blood. “There’s an execution chamber in the southerly tower. Nobody’s supposed to know about it. We interrogate them, get any information SerpenTerrorist may have let slip into their brains, then we throw them into the ovens, just like all their brothers.”
He coughed again. This time, blood squirted out of his mouth and nose.
He said, “I’m not supposed to know about that. I just do.”
“You said we.”
Sky Prince snorted. “I didn’t mean me. I meant the adult Crimebusters. They’ll be back from Mars any minute now and you’ll see first-hand.”
“What is Mars?”
“It’s a planet. In outer space. Turns out you guys were a diversion. SerpenTerrorist’s real target was the seat of Solar System government. On Mars. The adult Crimebusters figured it out within twenty seconds. That’s why they let us out, to fight you guys. So they could go to Mars.” Sky Prince laughed. “Your master sent you here to die for nothing. How does that make you feel? Hurt? Betrayed?”
Snake-Boy said, “These concepts are unfamiliar to me. And I don’t have a master.”
He was engrossed in the subtle intricacies of the cleft in Sky Prince’s chin, the way it interacted with the freckles and the hairs there. He didn’t say anything more for a long time.
Sky Prince was coughing without opening his mouth, now, trying to hold it all in.
“Should I give you mouth-to-mouth? Was the dog-girl right about that, too?”
“Her name is Lady Dogface,” said Sky Prince. “She’s my girlfriend. And, no. She was being a dork. She was making fun of you.”
Snake-Boy looked sideways.
“I know, I know. Concept unfamiliar.” Sky Prince reached out, placed his fingers gently on Snake-Boy’s tight, earhole-to-earhole snaky smile. “I don’t think you could give me mouth-to-mouth. I think your mouth doesn’t work that way.”
“What happened to you?” said Snake-Boy. “Did one of my brothers get you?”
“Hunh? This? Oh, no.” He tried to sit up again. Gave up. “No, your kind could never hurt me. This is an internal problem.”
Snake-Boy said, “Oh. Okay.” Then, after a while, “What does that mean?”
“I’m a clone, okay? There was no way my mom, who is human, could possibly have given birth to me — I’d have busted her wide open without meaning to. So dad took a little of her genetic material, a little of his own, and made me. Problem is, he didn’t do a good job. My body wears out after a few days, especially when I’m stressed out. Like I kind of was today.”
Snake-Boy said, “Because of the attack?”
“No. Something else.” He shut his eyes for a second. He opened them, shut them again for two seconds. “Anyway, we have to dump my memories into a new body every time I wear one out. This one’s just about had it.”
Snake-Boy said, “So I can see.”
“The only problem is if one of my bodies dies before we get a chance to dump my memories into it. Then everything since the last memory dump is lost. It’s like that body never lived. I don’t mind it so much, but it drives my friends crazy. Things we did together that I don’t remember anymore.”
Snake-Boy said, “So you’re a defective, too.”
“Yeah.” He met Snake-Boy’s eyes for the first time, smiled. “Yeah, I guess we’re both defectives. But I’m still the son of Sky Lord, and you’re not. So I’m defective but I’m also special.”
Snake-Boy said, “And I’m just defective.”
“Exactly.” He put his head back down on the ground. “Nobody knows that stuff I just told you. But you’ll be dead soon enough, so it doesn’t matter.” He opened his eyes. He pointed a finger at the sky. “Hey look. There he comes now.”
Before Snake-Boy had a chance to look, Sky-Lord landed on the ground in front of them. Just like that. Back from Mars. He didn’t say anything at first. He said, with no inflection, as a greeting, “Son.” But he didn’t look at Sky Prince. He looked at Snake-Boy. He said, with no inflection, “Fiend.” He took off his headband. He opened his third eye. He narrowed it.
Snake-Boy screamed. Snake-Boy writhed on the ground and screamed, for a long time.