I was grateful that I'd decided to wear a hat before climbing back onto the top of the train.
So I'd left the bleach in a little too long, and I had a head of platinum blonde hair. It would take a lot of getting used to, but it didn't look half bad.
And it was hidden for the time being.
"Hello Lucas." I said in a bored voice, my hands shoved in my pockets as I sat on the sun-warmed metal.
I was glad it was dark too, so that he couldn't see the somewhat pained expression on my face. Within a few seconds I had it covered with a mask of indifference.
"I...haven't seen you around a while."
That was enough for my smirk to reappear.
"I know. It was intentional."
Stinger blinked in surprise and I hopped to my feet, strolling easily past him towards Gille's car. I was already getting better at navigating the top of the train, and it would have been a blatant lie to say that Boltake's surgeries had nothing to do with it.
Everything I did, I learned faster. I was quicker, stronger, bolder. Better.
Being kidnapped and turned into a spy had its advantages.
I heard Stinger either calling me, apologizing or both, but I just kept walking. If it was any other situation, I might have turned around.
But I had a part to play, and so I had to play it. If I was supposed to be Wiseacre's pet, I had to act like it too.
Maybe my logic was flawed, but I was not in the mood to discuss anything with the automaton that had beaten me to a bloody mess. I knew that it wasn't his fault, and that he felt at least a little bad about it, but I was feeling very ungracious.
Besides, I was a clone. Were clones even meant to forgive, or feel mercy? Were they even meant...to be human?
I was really only a few years old, artificially aged. My only real memories were the ones that I had since joining Wiseacre's circus.
Wow, I was a freak. But then again, it took a freak to beat a freak. Boltake had chosen a great mole.
"Gilles?" I called into the newly-repaired vent, "You there?"
The grille was pried off much more carefully this time, and he pulled it into the car, probably to replace later.
"Camille? You're back?"
I dropped into the darkness beside him, holding up a bag of takeout.
"Didn't know if Wiseacre fed you anything, so I figured I might as well grab you some food."
He took it, surveying the contents.
"Much obliged. Our beloved ringleader gives us just enough protein powder to keep us looking alive for his clients."
Gilles started pigging out so I took the opportunity to look around the car, quickly letting out a yelp of surprise.
A countless number of eyes twinkled at me from the dark.
"How many people live in this one car?" I whispered urgently at Gilles, trying to hide just how freaked out I was.
"All the Night Circus performers. It's bigger than it looks, and there are bunkbeds attached to the walls." he explained through a mouthful of jiffy burger.
"And...did Wiseacre experiment on each of you?"
"Every one. Though some experiments went more...successfully than others."
"What did he do to you?"
He chuckled and went on pigging out without replying. Great.
"So you're the clone girl."
I turned to see someone else step into the dim light of the moon, and felt my eyes widen.
She was tall, with deep brown hair curling around her shoulders and softly glinting dog tags resting on her white tank top. But it wasn't any of that that had gotten my attention.
All of her uncovered skin was dark green and scaly, and a row of needle-sharp teeth protruded over her lower lip. Her eyes were an ethereal yellow, with pupils like slits.
"The name's Vivian."
Vivian offered me her hand and I shook it bewilderedly, shrinking into myself as she looked me over.
"Ah, a future member." she mused, before turning and disappearing into the shadows.
I couldn't help but be speechless.
"They used reptilian DNA to give her an armor plating." Gilles said, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, "She's a tank, my Viv."
What was a tank doing in a train?
"Were all of the experiments so.."
"-visually changing? No, Ed over there has gills and webbed fingers that you wouldn't notice unless he showed you, and I look perfectly normal."
Said the guy that seemed like he was suffering from malnutrition and was stuffing his face full of fries.
The events of the strange auction came back into my mind and I frowned in thought.
"You said that Wiseacre tried to sell you. Did you hear anything about prints or famous paintings when he did?"
Gilles laughed and nodded.
"You could say that. The 'Company' that runs the sales uses the names of paintings as a code to identify which human guinea pigs are being sold, to make it all seem legitimate if somebody pokes around. Like that Monet, Water Flowers or something, represents an aquatic alteration, like Ed's."
I remembered hearing the name of a print like that. The one Boltake told me not to buy.
"What about 'The Choice of Hercules'?"
He shrugged, looking like he was considering eating the paper bag.
"Never heard that one."
The lock on the door to the car started rattling and we shared a look of panic, before I was hastily vaulted onto the roof again and the vent was replaced.
I didn't stick around to see what Wiseacre was doing. I did need my beauty sleep, after all.