They’d found her when she was sleeping.
She’d woken up to find her arms gripped tight by two muscled men, and her first instinct was to gasp, to try and fight them off; but she wasn’t as young as she used to be.
Her second instinct was to scream, but she swallowed it before it could become anything more than a small groan of panic. What good would screaming do? This was Cave’s company. These were Cave’s workers. Cave’s men.
And they all knew what was going to happen to her.
“It’s time to go, Miss Caroline,” one of the men said to her. She heard the unhappiness in his voice, and thought about trying to reason with him. Thought about begging for her life. After all, he wasn’t happy doing this. He knew it was wrong; everybody knew it was wrong, surely if she could just plead hard enough they’d let her go -
This was her company too, dammit, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to leave it without her dignity intact. She raised her head; locked her eyes on the man who’d spoken to her. “I’m ready.”
He glanced to the side, unable to meet her eyes.
The worst part, she reflected as she was marched through the corridors, was that her escape plan was almost complete. There was only one man sympathetic - or possibly insane - enough to want to assist her, and he’d promised to lead her into his secret network of “rat dens” the following night.
Now she had to wonder if he’d known all along that it would be tonight. Cave’s condition was getting worse every day. He was barely even able to stand without support. Practically already dead. And certainly already insane.
The fact that he was willing to force his lover into being his prototype proved that.
“You’re the only one I trust enough.”
She should have gotten out the second she knew what he was planning, but she couldn’t. She’d loved this man for the past forty years. Had never told him, of course. The man seemed to be almost allergic to the idea that she cared for him at all.
The corridors were deserted. Doors were shut firmly; windows were covered. So everybody had known after all. Everybody in a company with thousands of employees had known, and nobody had bothered to tell her.
It wasn’t surprising.
Finally, they reached the long corridor leading to the prototype chamber. As they approached, she could see at least two dozen people. So many people willing to assist in her kidnapping and murder. Thousands more willing to sit back and watch it happen.
“It’s not murder, kid. Just think of it as a new beginning, all right? It’s gonna be great. You’ll see. Just you wait and see.”
That was the night she’d begun planning her escape. But by then he’d had her under lock and key. Eyes everywhere, cameras following her, her security clearance revoked. It was enough to make a person paranoid.
As they walked into the chamber, she looked around. And there he was.
She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. Of course he would be there. This was his idea, after all; his brilliant plan. Once it was perfected - once she was perfected - he’d be able to use the technology for himself. Himself and his goddamned eternal life.
He held up a hand as she was walked past him, and her escorts stopped. She stared at him, determined not to let a hint of fear slip through her stoic mask. And she studied his face. She’d thought it would be happy. Excited that it was all finally coming together for him. His illness had driven him far beyond the brink of insanity, and living forever was the only thing he could focus on.
But instead, his face was almost…sad. They locked eyes for what seemed like forever, and then he waved her past without saying one word.
“Wait!” she said in spite of herself. The escorts stopped, and she turned her head back towards Cave. He looked at her, waiting, and she barely hesitated before almost whispering, “I love you.”
It was a plea. She’d seen sorrow in his eyes, and she’d foolishly allowed herself to hope that for just this brief moment in time he was free of insanity, that he was once again the Cave she’d fallen in love with. It was one last desperate attempt to get through to him.
But instead he closed his eyes, bowed his head, and waved her forward again.
She hadn’t really expected anything different.