I sighed as I gazed at the dark figure standing in the guarded cell. What had happened to him? How could one person change from one extreme to another? What kind of demented person would do this to him? I briefly closed my eyes, allowing myself to remember, for a few seconds, what Rex had been like before this entire catastrophe had started. Funny, gentle, sweet… Even now I felt his hand on my shoulder. My eyes snapped open. No, I REALLY felt a hand my shoulder. I spun around to find that the hand was only Duke, checking on me.
"Rusty," he said, in a compassionate tone that was very unusual for him, "No matter how much you visit him, he won't change." I looked away, hoping to avoid his stare.
"I know," I replied finally. "I just feel like I… betrayed him. I wish there was something I could do to help him. I'm sure that it's the nanobots that are doing this, not him…" I trailed off, still refusing to meet Duke's eyes.
"But he's resisting treatment," Duke said. "It's much harder to work on a resisting patient." Again, there was an awkward pause. I'd been noticing those more and more often since the start of the "Cobra" incident.
I dared to look up. "Maybe I could talk to him."
Silently, Duke nodded his approval. I cleared my throat. "Alone." I said, jerking my head slightly to the guard who stood, statue-still, outside of Rex's already heavily reinforced cell.
Duke looked at me awhile longer before finally waving the guard off. "Five minutes," he said as he walked out the door himself. I turned around to face the steel fortress behind me.
"Five minutes," I whispered to myself as I slowly, hesitantly walked toward the cell. As I approached, the steel wall gave way to a set of laser bars, which was completely unnecessary, as Rex was already bound to the cell with no hope of escape. I kept walking until I was only inches from the bars; Rex's head, encased in metal, turned up to face me.
"Rex," I said softly, delicately. I whispered the word so that, had it not been for the complete silence of the room, he most likely would not have heard me.
"Rusty," he answered back, a faint trace of emotion in his voice that I hadn't heard or seen in a very, very long time- could it be? Love? But I had a different purpose today, no time for distractions. Five minutes.
"Why won't you let them help you?" I demanded. "They can fix you; they can save you."
"Because there's nothing wrong with me," he hissed. No. Definitely not the same Rex I met years ago. But before I could say anything more, he cut me off.
"Rusty, I don't need them. I need you." Those words cut deep; he had found my weakness.
"I am planning to escape, and I have a solid plan. I will conquer the world, I will be King Cobra, and nothing can stop me!" He cackled, the sick sound of it twisting my heart. Then he spoke again. "I will do it with or without you, but victory will be sweeter with a Queen by my side."
And suddenly I realized the enormity of the situation. I staggered backward, dazed at the request. Finally I regained my composure.
"I think we may need more than five minutes." I walked quickly to the intercom, actually only trying to get a little space. I hastily jabbed the button, waiting for Duke to respond.
"What?" came the reply from the small speaker.
"I'm gonna need more time," I said, my head swimming with thoughts.
"No! You have your orders, and a talk shouldn't take more than-"
I cut him off. "Why don't you go grab lunch or something?" I asked somewhat randomly. But Duke got the message, as it was our code for emergency purposes only. I heard a sharp intake of breath on the other end.
"I'll do that. But make it quick. I'll be at Tenth Avenue if you need me."
Ten minutes. Would that be enough time?
And so I turned back around to find out. I took each step slowly, deliberately; as if I were calculating my next move. Finally I stopped in front of the distraught man who I had once called my lover. But did he still deserve that title?
"I need to know what you're planning." I said, trying to sound level-headed. "I won't devote myself to a failing plan."
Rex- or the Cobra- chuckled lightly. "I can't give you that information, dear, as much as I love you. Not until you're committed. But trust me, it will work."
I pretended to struggle with indecision. "Rex, I need a day."
"That's enough time for you to tell the Joes what I'm planning."
"Trust me," I said, looking into the dark sockets of his mask. "Do you remember how?"
We gazed at each other for what seemed like hours, until he finally hung his head and said, "One day. One day is all you have, Rusty. But remember- I am trusting you to keep the secret."
I turned around and walked out the automatic door, not daring to look back at the man I was about to betray.