A Secret Conflict Part VI

Help for the Helpless & Deals for the Damned

By Hyper Angel

Quick Rant: Here's a tip kids, you never know how bad a virus is until you realize you forget to back up certain files. Would you believe, a lot of my stories were one of them? Well, I've practically started from scratch with a Secret Conflict, which is why it has been a near eternity since I last had an update here. Now, I more or less have my bearings straight, and I WILL be trying to write more regularly. Anyway, enjoy!


"Cloud!!" Tifa's shocked voice thundered from upstairs. "Come here! Quick!!"

Reluctantly, he sprang up from his place on the couch. The peaceful sleep that almost blanketed him was shattered by the grim urgency in her voice. Stumbling ahead in the first few paces, and rubbing his eyes as he went, Cloud rushed up the stairs towards the source of her voice, the worn floorboards squealing angrily under the pressure of his ascent.

He found Tifa standing dead still in the center of the hall, her right hand over her even then trembling lips. Her eyes were wide with shock, and Cloud hadn't the faintest idea what the reason could be fore. Except, he realized, he had forgotten one thing.

"Don't tell me it's…" He murmured softly, his voice trailing off for the fact there was only one thing it could be.

Tifa turned to look at him hesitantly, then nodded with just the same pause. "I…I don't know what though." She replied shakily, gesturing towards the door of Vincent's room.

He stepped forward cautiously to investigate within. Tifa backed away a few steps as he pushed by her, leaning against the stair's railing in an attempt compose herself.

"God, you don't think he'd-"

Cloud rose a hand up to stop her in mid-sentence. "Best not to think of that." He quickly assured her. "Wouldn't want to jinx him or anything." He rolled his eyes at his own comment and pushed the heavy wood door open.

It was dark inside, as he had guessed, but much more than he would have imagined. The shadows and the darkness merged together in a sea of darkness, making it impossible to make out anything in the small quarters. His own eyes ached as he strained them to peer into the impossible darkness, why did Vincent always insist on enveloping himself in darkness all the time anyway? Cloud rolled his eyes curtly and suppressed a nearly annoyed sigh.

Vincent always was so pale, like some strange walking corpse among them. It should've come as no wonder that he'd just…

A loud creak came from behind him, and light slowly, if not reluctantly, crept along the edges of the room. It was Tifa of course, finally mustering up the nerve to investigate on her own, perhaps a mix of concern for Vincent's well being and her own curiosity pushing her in.

Either way, the light from the hallway was enough, and at last Vincent's crumpled form was revealed.

And despite Cloud's own seeming indifference to the ordeal, his eyes widened.

* * *

"It's been a long time hasn't it?" Said the Professor. Of course he wouldn't dare give up the opportunity to greet such a beloved acquaintance. Even Malise had nearly forgotten about Sasake, one of the many former underlings to Gast and Hojo. Though just in seeing the look on his face, and the tone of his voice; it seemed like they had never parted

"And you look so well too, Commander!" Sasake chided on in now distant words. "Quite lively in fact!"

The cold air of the lab seemed to turn to pure ice at the scientist words, stinging and rasping at Malise's skin as he stared at the man.

It was almost funny. He looked exactly like he remembered. That same pale complexion, same glasses perched elegantly on that deceivingly pleasant face of his, and that same damned smirk plastered across his face.

Just the same, Malise instantly recalled exactly what Sasake had told him in a lab much like the one they were in. On that day, ten years ago. Ten years he thought he'd put behind him. Recalled every detail, every aspect of it. Each and every word. All about the studies underlying the Jenova project….

* * *

Cloud merely stared down at the crumpled mass of the former Turk for a while. A part of him too confused, or even fearful, of what the cause of all this was.

Vincent lie there, just at the foot of the bed, as though he had fallen just short of even making it there. His face was half concealed by the metallic claw, which was stretched in a lifelessly in front of his chest. Still, what skin did show was pale, more so than Cloud had ever seen him. The clothes he had worn, which obviously had changed just recently, seemed somehow oversized on his body. It was as though very life and essence was gone, sucked straight from out of him.

"I didn't know if it would be safe to move him." Tifa finally spoke. "I thought it might make things worse, considering he's even alive still." It was actually the first time Cloud hadn't managed to interrupt her grim musings about Vincent's condition.

Kneeling over Vincent's lifeless body, Cloud seized his one flesh wrist gruffly. He waited a few seconds, carefully blocking out all other distractions to focus the one main concern for the moment.

A languid, almost barely noticeable beating met his touch.

"He's not dead…." Cloud announced tersely, realizing a relieved tone had worked it's way into the words. "Or at least not yet. He's barely even breathing I think."

Tifa moved forward from her place in the shadows, joining cloud were he kneeled huddled over their seemingly half-dead companion. She looked over Vincent for a long time silently it seemed, studying everything she could of the sad sight before finally speaking up.

"But what could of caused this?"

* * *

"It's quite tragic actually!" Sasake had sighed in an air of mock-concern. "Nearly twenty years they've been working on this project, and still things just never work out!"

He uttered a falsely mournful sigh.

"After all these years, all this work, the specimens never fare well in the end." He twisted his hand around something in his coat pocket thoughtlessly as he talked now. "Oh yes, for a while maybe, depending on their will. Their 'fighting spirit' as you might say." He turned his gaze back up to Malise for a split second.

"But in the end! It's such a shame! Almost even hard to say what causes it at times, but it happens."

"Just what happens?" Malise had said, forcing himself to sound threatening, or even half interested. Whichever

"That's just it!" Sasake thundered, bordering on a tone between annoyed and exhilarated all at once. "It varies from person to person that is." He crossed his arms, a smirk finding it's way back to his face.

"Some last out a few weeks, others even a few years. Hell, it's too early to tell for a few of our latest ones. Whether it's hope they'll pull through, or if it's their own self hate…" He shrugged, suppressing a laugh as he droned on.

"I never really did do well with psychology you know, so I can't say for sure. Hojo's been the one for that much. Then again he's a walking basket case as it is!" He laughed. "But you know, there's something I've wanted to prove for myself for a while now. Based upon a certain Turk we came upon some years ago." Malise's look of confusion kept the professor from going any further.

"Well, nevermind all that. It's in the past after all." He tone seemed to be getting faster and faster. Too frustrated to listen to any more of the professor's ranting, Malise cut him off.

"But what the hell is all this supposed to mean?"

Sasake smiled again, for what seemed the thousandth time. "But to put it simply." He said. "I guess you could say…."

* * *

"I don't know." Cloud replied somberly. He pressed his hand to Vincent's forehead, a hot balmy feeling rushed through his palms in an instant. He had a nasty fever, that was for sure, but it still made no sense at all. He was fine a few hours ago, what could make that change so suddenly?

He looked back up to Tifa, her wary eyes fluttering to meet his gaze. "What should we do?" She asked him, still looking shaken at the least. Cloud shook his head slowly. Turning his focus downward once more, he pushed the loose strands of his raven hair from his serene face. Strange, it was the first time Cloud had ever seen the man look at peace.

"I guess none of this makes sense, huh Tifa?"

There was a abrupt pause. " I guess." She muttered. "But….why?"

* * *

"How about this, Commander," Sasake's mocking smile broadened. "I'll make you a little deal, maybe even a compromise of sorts."

For the first time since the two had confronted each other, he approached him. Bracing his arm against Malise' shoulder, Sasake leaned uncomfortably closer. So much that Malise could feel the professor's hot breath across his cheek, the irregular breaths making his skin crawl, even as he recalled it now.

"Let's put it this way," Sasake whispered in his ear. "You know what I want, and I know what you want. If you come through for me, I'll come through for you." He snickered, even though it was directly in Malise's ears.

"It's that easy. Everyone goes home happy, right?" He chuckled, the shaky breaths brushing almost painfully against Malise's ear. "Oh, yes; except for those poor little soldiers of yours though."

And just as abruptly as before, Sasake pulled away, taking a few casually slow steps away from him. "Five lives for one life, Commander. It's more than a fair deal. He paused, turned only long enough to steal a glance back at him, and continued walking towards the door.

Malise hesitated. The lunatic had a point. The troops were half-dead anyway, ripped to shreds by whatever those monters were. So, maybe this was the humane thing to do. To put them out of the misery and contribute to science. It was them or him.

Sasake was only inches from walking out the door and breaking the 'deal'. It was now or never.

"Wait!" Malise called out. The Scientist stopped, turning completely to face him. His smile was wider than ever.

"A wise decision, Commander." Was his only reply before leaving. Malise was left alone with his thoughts. It was something he knew he'd never forget, something he'd always regret. Of course, he was right…


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